Rock Region METRO gets $3.1M for 5 natural gas buses, bus simulator

Rock Region METRO gets .1M for 5 natural gas buses, bus simulator

Rock Region METRO received $3,149,677 – the third-largest competitive grant to date – in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds to purchase up to five 35-foot compressed natural gas buses and a bus simulator for use in workforce development.

The funds are part of the FTA’s Low-or-No-Emission Grant program.

This is the fifth FTA competitive grant Rock Region METRO has received since its first grant in 2016. This award will contribute to METRO’s continued efforts to maintain a diverse, more environmentally friendly fleet while bringing significant innovation to the operator’s workforce development program.

Rock Region METRO has selected Gillig and FAAC for the purchase of the buses and the bus simulator.

“We are excited to receive this award, which will help ensure our fleet remains in a safe, efficient and more sustainable state,” said Justin Avery, CEO of Rock Region METRO. “We are grateful for the FTA’s focus on helping public transportation agencies with innovative bus technology that helps the industry attract and retain operators, and look forward to implementing the bus simulator into driver training.”

The bus simulator will be housed in the METRO training headquarters at 901 Maple St., North Little Rock, and consists of an enclosed cab with a driver’s seat and a dashboard console in the front, along with the usual bus cab equipment such as a steering wheel, mirrors, turn signals, headlights, a radio and pedals.

It also features a 340-degree field of view and eight visual displays, along with motion feedback, to simulate a bus ride in different scenarios.

The arrival of five 35-foot CNG buses will help Arkansas’ largest public transportation agency keep its fleet in safe, sustainable, and healthy condition.

A total of 117 projects across the country received a share of the $1.5 billion in funding through the 2024 FTA Low- or No-Emission Grant program.

“Today, 117 communities, including Central Arkansas, are getting the good news that their transit buses will be modernized and their commutes improved by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “The Biden-Harris Administration is helping agencies in 47 states replace aging buses that run on dirty, expensive fuels with modern, zero-emission buses built by American workers that will connect more people to where they need to go.”

Although Arkansas’ congressional delegation voted against the president’s infrastructure bill, the grant was supported by U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock. Additionally, Metroplan Executive Director Casey Covington and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott supported the grant request, according to a news release.