January 19, 2009
Transit: Pivotal to Energy, Environment, InfrastructureNew York MTA Committee Releases Sustainability Report
By Susan Berlin
Infrastructure renewal and expansion, climate change, and energy policy are three critical issues facing the U.S. and its metropolitan areas, and public transportation stands in the “sweet spot” where they overlap. This is the primary message of Greening Mass Transit & Metro Regions, a report prepared by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Sustainability and announced at a Jan. 8 event on Capitol Hill. A synopsis of the report is now available, while a draft version of the full report can be found online at www.mta.info/environment.
The report quantifies the environmental benefits of public transit, including nearly 100 recommendations for strategies and technologies to help the MTA region reduce its carbon footprint while generating long-term savings and economic growth.
The shift from single-occupancy vehicles to public transportation is of primary importance for both economic and environmental reasons, commission Chairman Jonathan F.P. Rose said in presenting the report to MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander. Other speakers at the event included five members of Congress and APTA President William W. Millar.
Among its other findings, the report calls on Congress to pass a $1 trillion green stimulus bill that focuses on 21st-century transit and renewable energy, and to set a $1 trillion authorization level for the next federal transportation bill. It also proposes raising the monthly commuter transit tax benefit, which increased to $120 on Jan. 1, to $220 to provide parity with the current parking benefit; implementing a 40-cent increase in the federal gas tax over five years; and shifting the gas tax to mileage-based user fees.
“The MTA is committed to ‘greening’ both its capital and operating budgets,” said Sander, who also chaired APTA’s TransitVision 2050 Task Force. “We want to invest in green public transit and green housing clustered around public transit…we believe that green mobility is as important as green energy.”
“This report will stand as a template for the future of the New York region and other metropolitan areas,” said commission member Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association. “Our development process has to be greener, built around livable communities.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who hosted the Capitol Hill event, echoed Yaro’s comments. “Sustainability is more vital than ever before,” he said. “Beyond New Yorkers, the greening of MTA can serve as an example to transit systems across the country.”
Other members of the House who attended the event were Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Michael McMahon and John Hall(both D-NY), and James Himes (D-CT).