CARTA's Philip Pugilese told board members of Thursday that the transit agency will be receiving millions of dollars in grants from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
“As you know, we’ve been operating under funding from the Department of Energy on understanding our energy use on our mixed fleet of buses,” Mr. Pugilese said. “That project has been extended through June of next year due to delays related to the pandemic.”
He said CARTA will be receiving a second grant (pending approval) that will give the organization $1.7 million in federal funding. This grant would take effect in October.
“That would take at the role of artificial intelligence in managing our transit routes, and how we use our neighborhood services and micro transit fleets in taking people from their neighborhoods to our primary route corridors,” Mr. Pugilese said.
He said the project should last around three years once it begins in October. In addition to this new influx of money, CARTA will also be (indirectly) receiving even more money from the National Science Foundation.
“One of our working partners at Vanderbilt University was awarded a NSF rapid response grant for the COVID-19 pandemic to evaluate transit ridership at CARTA and in Nashville,” Mr. Pugilese said. “They’ve been collecting data from both agencies, and working toward the goal of being able to provide occupancy data to our passengers.”
He said CARTA passengers will be able to onto an app and have real-time data provided to them about the occupancy rate and arrival times of buses. That way, passengers would be able to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to board that particular bus, or wait for another one.
However, CARTA will also be receiving money directly from the NSF as well, with $2.1 incoming in order to fund a project aimed at helping under-served communities around Chattanooga.
“That will be looking at East Chattanooga and other areas in the city, and how we can use our neighborhood micro-transit resources to help provide greater accessibility in these underserved areas,” Mr. Pugilese said. “That is pending a final contract that would start in October for a four year project.”
CARTA Executive Director Lisa Maragnano said the funding and projects will be a boon for CARTA. She said “This helps support the services we need. We’re a small staff and we can’t do everything we need to do and we can’t hire everyone we need to hire. So our partners will be able to help us with that, and it’s exciting.”
Earlier in the meeting, it became known that parking revenue was down on the meters, and UTC professor Charlene Simmons had a very simple answer for that.
“It’s because few people are parking downtown, and we’re going to continue to see that trend. I’m on UTC’s campus right now, and we usually make a lot of money off the meters around campus because there are students who refuse to buy parking passes,” professor Simmons said. “But because we have a significantly smaller population of students on campus because we’ve moved so much online, you’re going to see a decline in revenue around UTC, and you’ll see it all semester.”
Another board member said the protests also had a negative impact on parking downtown. However, he said this was simply anecdotal observations.
The CARTA board also approved the 2020-21 executive committee budget report. Click here to view the report.