Schumer, Gillibrand, Morelle Announce Over $23 Million For The Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority

Government and Politics

August 14, 2022


Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority Bussing Infrastructure Is Essential To Finger Lakes Economy; With Routes Throughout Rochester And The Surrounding Region, Residents Rely On Public Transportation For Daily Needs & To Get To Work

Reps Secure Highly Competitive Federal “Low & No Emission Grant” For RGRTA To Pave The Way For A Cleaner, More Accessible Finger Lakes, And Further Build On The Region’s Booming Clean Hydrogen Industry

Schumer, Gillibrand, Morelle: RGRTA Just Got Put In The Fast Lane For Clean Transportation Revolution!

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Congressman Joseph Morelle today announced over $23 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Low and No Emission Vehicle Grant Program for the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA). The lawmakers explained that following their direct advocacy to Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, RGRTA was selected for two of these highly competitive grants, to establish a new facility for their paratransit service RTS Access and launch a first of its kind Clean Hydrogen Fuel Cell pilot program.

“Rochester just got put in the fast lane for a transportation revolution and this massive federal boost is going accelerate RGRTA to achieve a fully zero-emission bus fleet by 2035. This funding will create a state of the art operational hub for RGRTA’s paratransit service and its hundreds of employees that will help streamline service, make sure buses are on time, and now provide riders with a new hydrogen powered bus ride that will help the environment at every stop along the way,” said Senator Schumer. “This funding comes directly from the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law that I fought so hard to pass, as well as an additional increase in this year’s appropriations, and with this tremendous news on the heels of us just passing the biggest investment in fighting climate change ever, you can bet all eyes are on Rochester. The Finger Lakes is already a global leader when it comes to Clean Hydrogen thanks to Plug Power, and now America will be able to see firsthand how New York is fighting climate change while also giving residents a safer, faster, and cleaner commute.”

“This is a historic investment in Rochester’s public transit system and comes as a direct result of Senator Schumer’s and my advocacy to DOT Secretary Buttigieg,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These federal dollars will help RGRTA continue its transition to a zero-emission bus fleet, which will help ensure that the millions of people who use Rochester’s bus system have quick and reliable service while also dramatically reducing carbon emissions. I fought to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law to provide funding for investments in innovative clean transit projects like this one and I’ll keep working to make sure that New York State remains a leader in sustainable development and the fight against climate change.”

“The climate crisis is one of the most significant challenges facing our nation, and in order to combat its devastating effects, we need to make real investments in growing sustainable infrastructure,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “That’s why I’m so proud to have worked with my partners Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to secure this funding that will build upon steps RGRTA has already taken to invest in clean energy and reduce our carbon footprint while strengthening access to safe, affordable, reliable transportation. I congratulate RGRTA on this significant award and look forward to our continued work together to help Rochester lead the charge in environmentally-friendly public transportation.”

“These investments accelerate our ability to provide new mobility options and zero-emission technologies that will make it possible for RGRTA to improve access to important destinations, protect the environment, and continue being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said RGRTA CEO Bill Carpenter. “I thank Leader Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Representative Morelle for their leadership, support, and securing funding that will help us continue our efforts to transition to a zero-emission bus fleet.”

Specifically, RGRTA will receive $16 million towards the creation of its new RTS Access facility, and $7,043,331 for the clean hydrogen fuel cell bus demonstration program. The representatives explained that the current paratransit facility is decades old, woefully outdated and unable to be expanded as the regions transit needs continue to grow. These limitations have divided RTS Access’ workforce between the existing paratransit facility, and RGRTA’s main office. This funding will create a brand new modern home for RTS Access’ over 100 employees and its over 50 bus fleet, upgrading its infrastructure so that scheduling, vehicle maintenance, storage, and assessments for paratransit need can all be housed under one state of the art roof, allowing RGRTA to improve accessibility and better serve the people of the Greater Rochester area.

The first of its kind Clean Hydrogen Fuel Cell pilot program will allow Rochester to be among the first transit services to launch new hydrogen fuel cell buses and will help build the fueling infrastructure required to operate them. Hydrogen fuel cell buses produce zero emissions, have a longer range and shorter fueling time than battery-electric buses, and generally perform better in colder weather, which is critical during Rochester’s harsh winter months. RGRTA is one of five transit systems in New York State working towards the goal of having a fully zero-emission bus fleet by 2035, and this funding will accelerate them towards finally achieving that goal.

Today’s investments are the product of months of advocacy by Schumer, Gillibrand and Morelle to increase funding for transportation through recent legislation like the Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law which included $5.6 billion over five years, or about $1.1 billion per year for the Low and No Emission Vehicle Grant Program that made this funding possible. Furthermore, in the FY 22 Appropriations budget, they secured an additional $75 million for the program in this year alone. Since the start of the pandemic Schumer has fought hard to prioritize relief for Upstate New York transit systems so that they could not only make up for tremendous revenue losses during the height of COVID, but invest in their services to better service the community. The senator secured over $36.3 million for RGRTA through the CARES Act, over $23 million for transit in the Rochester region through the FY21 COVID Omnibus (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021), and an additional $45 million through the American Rescue Plan. Finally, in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act the senator was able to deliver an estimated $94.7 million for RGRTA over the next 5 years.

This funding also comes on the heels of Majority Leader Schumer, with the support of Senator Gillibrand, passing the largest investment in fighting climate change ever in the just Senate passed Inflation Reduction Act, which now heads to the House where it has a strong advocate in Rep. Morelle. This bill includes over $1 billion for clean buses, garbage trucks, and other vehicles. Plus, $10 billion in investment tax credits to build clean technology manufacturing facilities and tens of billions in production tax credits to accelerate U.S. manufacturing of clean hydrogen and other green energy, which will significantly boost local Finger Lakes companies like Plug Power which makes the same kind of hydrogen fuel cell stacks in Monroe County that power buses like those in this grant.

A copy of Schumer’s original letter to Transportation Secretary Buttigieg advocating for the grants to RGRTA appears below:

Dear Secretary Buttigieg:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by Rochester Genesee

Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) to the Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Low or No Emission Vehicle program.

With funding, RGRTA will pursue 2 projects vital to its current and future operation. First, funds will be used to build a critically important facility that will house administrative offices, operational staff facilities, and vehicle maintenance, fueling and storage space for RTS Access, the Authority’s paratransit service. At nearly 40 years old, the current RTS Access facility is beyond its useful life and inadequately sized for current demand with no growth opportunities. The current paratransit facility is used to maintain a fleet of 53 vehicles and 119 employees. A new facility will allow RGRTA to service its paratransit customers more efficiently, enhancing the reliability of transit service for those who depend on it to reach employment, health care, and other services vital to daily life. A new facility will also align with President Biden’s Justice40 initiative by helping RGRTA upgrade its infrastructure to include more climate-friendly facilities.

For the second project, the funds will be used for a hydrogen fuel cell demonstration program that would consist of 40-foot hydrogen fuel cell buses and the fueling infrastructure required to operate them. RGRTA is one of five transit systems in New York State working towards the goal of having a fully zero-emission bus fleet by 2035. RGRTA currently has 11 electric buses in its fleet with another 9 expected to go into service this summer. A Hydrogen Fuel Cell pilot program will make it possible to incorporate multiple innovative technologies as RGRTA works to meet the 2035 goal. Hydrogen fuel cell buses produce zero emissions, have a longer range and shorter fueling time than battery-electric buses, and they perform better in colder weather. Similar to electric buses, the maintenance costs are lower than those associated with diesel buses. And investing in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles significantly reduces end-of-life battery disposal costs.

I applaud Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority for its foresight and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.

Thank you for your consideration.