CATA Becomes Rock Region Metro With New Look, 15 CNG Buses

The new CNG-powered, wifi-enabled Rock Region Metro bus.
The new CNG-powered, wifi-enabled Rock Region Metro bus. (Alexis Hosticka)
Inside the bus.
Inside the bus. (Alexis Hosticka)

The Central Arkansas Transit Authority on Tuesday became the Rock Region Metro, part of rebranding effort that includes new services and 15 buses powered by compressed natural gas.

The Gillig low-floor buses, which go into service on Wednesday, are also equipped with Wi-Fi and automatic passenger counters.

"We want to be the system that takes people to the places they want to go," Board Chairman Allie Freeman said at a news conference in downtown Little Rock. "We want to improve the passenger experience."

More: See our chart on the Rock Region Metro brand, the new buses and the new look.

CNG fuel is more cost efficient and burns cleaner than diesel. There is a CNG station for the buses to use, and over the next 10 years, Rock Region Metro will phase out diesel buses, replacing them with the CNG-powered vehicles, according to Becca Green, Rock Region Metro's director of public engagement.

"The Rock Region Metro brand reflects the citizen-focused, forward-thinking organization we are, Jarod Varner, Rock Region Metro's executive director, said. "We want to weave our brand into every aspect of our business, educating the public about our services while also representing a transit system of which they can be proud."

For now, older vehicles in the fleet will be rotated out of service now through March and painted to match the brand’s new look. The moves bring the transit system's fleet size to 82, including 24 paratransit buses.

The Rock Region Metro brand is one of the major outcomes of the Move Central Arkansas project, a comprehensive planning effort involving a stakeholders in public transit. The new brand will support a service plan recently adopted by the Rock Region Metro board of directors. 

The plan focuses on three areas: service expansion and improvements; comprehensive and consistent branding; and exploring funding opportunities to support the former.

"Twenty years from now, I see this city having an enhanced and vibrant transportation system," board member Jimmy Moses said. "We need to step up and fund our system properly."

The Rock Region Metro system plans to add 35 new bus shelters by the end of the year, and next month it will release a GPS-based mobile app called Metro Tracker. A digital screen added to the River Cities Travel Center will display bus departure and arrival times once the Metro Tracker app debuts

The downtown trolleys will also be receive a makeover, painted blue to match the rest of the Rock Region Metro branding. 

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