APTA | Passenger Transport
October 20, 2008

In This Issue


The 2008 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in San Diego was a huge success!


Read all about it.

Transit Helps Communities Commit to Sustainability
By ROBERT BRADFORD, for Passenger Transport

Visitors to a college campus in southern California may see traditional lawns replaced by “smart landscapes” that require smaller amounts of precious water to maintain. 

Participants in a town hall meeting in Des Moines, IA, talk about how the city must reduce its carbon footprint. Legislators in Richmond, VA, insist that the commonwealth must be a national leader in reducing greenhouse gases.

Across the nation, state lawmakers, city councils, and university presidents are focusing on a common theme—sustainability. Transit authorities can play a pivotal role in fostering sustainable communities, according to a group of panelists who addressed the multifaceted issue at an Oct. 6 session during the APTA 2008 Annual Meeting and EXPO in San Diego.

“There is a focus on carbon, but this is a much broader issue,” according to Fred Hansen, chair of APTA’s Sustainability Task Force and general manager of the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon in Portland. “One of the key elements for public transit is to provide for livability—to be a part of the fabric of the community.”

Hansen said APTA’s commitment to sustainability has far-reaching goals, from improving the quality of life for communities to encouraging economic growth through solid transit systems, to addressing fundamental environmental issues connected to carbon emissions.

For John Inglish, general manger and executive director of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in Salt Lake City, the public now has an expectation that transit authorities should contribute to a sustainable future.

“The public is saying give me something new and it’s got to be sustainable,” said Inglish. “It’s a great time for transit, and I think transit has got to step up. Transit has been given a golden opportunity.”

Transit must use this opportunity to define itself as part of a broader choice to foster sustainability, said Diana Mendes, a senior vice president with AECOM, which provides transportation services to clients around the globe.

“We must reposition our product and how it can contribute to a green lifestyle choice,” Mendes said. “People are saying, ‘I’m not just taking the bus because it’s convenient—it’s part of a choice to improve the planet.’ ”

While public transit works externally to engage customers and become part of community-wide sustainability efforts, it also must look internally to find ways to improve efficiency and green practices, Inglish said. He described UTA’s consideration of a range of efficiency measures, including changing light bulbs with more energy-efficient light bulbs in stations, adding, “We’re saving an incredible amount of money.”

To create a framework for how transit authorities can commit to sustainable standards and best practices, APTA is developing a voluntary commitment to sustainability for member agencies. Scheduled to be distributed to members later this year, the text of the commitment will define common sustainability principles and an action plan for the transit industry.

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