RYDE continues transit modernization effort with grants for solar array and fare system.

RYDE transit modernization solar array

RACINE — The city’s transit department is steaming ahead in its effort to modernize public transportation.

A $1.2 million grant from the Department of Energy will fund a solar array at the 1900 Kentucky St. facility. A $160,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will help modernize the fare collection system to allow for smartcard and digital touchless payments.

Sustainability and economic benefits – Credit: City of Racine

Trevor Jung, the city’s transportation and mobility director, was before the Transit Commission on Thursday, where the members voted to recommend the Common Council accept the grant.

Transit’s big expenditures – electrification of the solar fleet, the solar array, and now the touchless fare payment system – have all been funded with state and federal grants.

Cost of energy offset with solar array

A federal grant for the solar array will offset the cost of the $2.6 million project. The remaining $1.4 million will be covered by local ARPA funds, which the council set aside for energy projects.
Jung was before the Common Council on Tuesday, July 18 where he explained all the benefits of the project.
“If you look at it from a monetary perspective, what this is going to do is save about $76,000 a year on operational costs,” Jung said. “This is a $2.6 million project that is 100% being funded by the federal government.”

Sustainability & Decarbonizations Project Rendering

EV-Solar RYDE Racine

Rendering of the solar array – Credit: City of Racine

The advantages:

    • The solar array will allow the transit department to run five city buses without having to purchase either diesel or electricity for a generation.
    • Replacing five diesel buses with electric ones reduces the amount of fuel the city buys by 24,000 gallons/year.
    • Reduce the amount of carbon produced by 249 metric tonnes per year.

Senator Tammy Baldwin helped secure funding for the project from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment Act, a bipartisan effort to shore up the nation’s infrastructure with $1.2 trillion in investments.

“We live in great times in that the federal government is now committed to local government and making sure that we have built infrastructure that meets our needs,” Jung told the council.

Touchless fare system convenient and more equitable

The Transit Commission voted Thursday to accept a $160,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to modernize the fare collection system to allow for smartcard and digital touchless payments. There is a $40,000 match, which will come from the transit department’s capital plan.

The grant will be used to install tap-and-go validators as well as the software to manage accounts.

Sustainability & Decarbonizations Project Rendering

RYDE Racine EV-Solar

Rendering of an electric bus under the solar array – Credit: City of Racine
The transit department has specifications for the touchless system, which include fare capping, access to digital payments, smart card benefits, and the ability for people to pay by tapping their credit cards.

The goal is to encourage people to take advantage of public transportation by making it as convenient as possible to pay. The touchless system also brings with it more efficiency.

However, there is also an issue of equity.

Fare capping allows the transit system to reach its equity goals by reducing the cost of transportation for people who do not have any other access to transportation and/or who are struggling financially.
Fare capping is only possible through the new system, which can track an individual’s use of the bus system.
Fare capping is already being used in Milwaukee where the fare is capped at $4 for the day, $19.50 for the week and $72 for the month.
WisGo transit system

One option before the Board of Transportation is to use a system already in place regionally.

Tim Hosch, CFO, Milwaukee County Transit System, was recently before the Transit Commission to promote the benefits of WisGo, which Umo powers.

MCTS began using the new system in April. The Waukesha Transit System recently joined WisGo, and the Transit Commission will have the option to do the same.

There are benefits to belonging to a regional system. Users would be able to use the same WisGo system in multiple communities.

If Racine residents wanted to visit Milwaukee for the day, they are all set to use public transportation.

Credit: Dee Holzel. RYDE continues transit modernization effort with grants for solar array and fare system. Racine County Eye. 03 August 2023.

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