APTA | Passenger Transport
May 11, 2009

In This Issue


Going Green: APTA Members Share Strategies
BY JOHN R. BELL, Program Manager

With sustainable practices not only urged by the public but also required for certain federal recovery funding, APTA transit system and business members shared their strategies in several sessions at the 2009 Bus & Paratransit Conference.

Working with the Community
In a May 4 session titled Building Sustainable Communities with Partnerships, Ron Kilcoyne, chief executive officer of the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority in Bridgeport, CT, and chair of the APTA Systems Management and Operations Planning Subcommittee, noted that APTA implemented its urban design standards program to fill transit agencies’ needs for local community planning resources. In addition, the standards help systems design transit facilities and services.

Nina Wolfoort of the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) in Louisville, KY, shared her system’s experience with instituting a transit-oriented walkability plan. The mayor had placed a focus on making the city healthier: Louisville is the sixth most sedentary U.S. city, according to Forbes magazine.  So TARC worked with the city public health department and the mayor’s office, as well as the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, to develop its program.

“Number one was that we wanted [the program] to be sustainable,” Wolfoort said. “We were trying to create a movement to create a deeper impact than just a list of projects.”

Among other efforts, TARC conducted a web-based survey and held workshops on safe routes to school. It held a day-long summit with the mayor and the public health director to discuss needs and commitments to action.

Louisville is now adding bike-pedestrian infrastructure to its master plan devoting $4.5 million to sidewalks, and building an intermodal center.

APTA Sustainability Commitment Pilot Program
At the Host Forum May 5, titled Sustainability & Transit: King County Metro Transit’s (KCMT) Efforts to Create a Sustainable Transportation System, Kevin Desmond, the agency’s general manager, said: “We were delighted last year when APTA started its commitment to sustainability,” noting that KCMT had signed up as a pilot participant. “It’s a way to develop a focus within your organization,” he added.

By 2020, Desmond said, the county plans to obtain 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources, such as biofuel and even hydroelectric power. “The price of petroleum will go back up after this worldwide recession is over,” he said. “You might have to invest money up front to do these things, but from a life-cycle basis, they will pay themselves off.”

He noted that King County participates in a voluntary carbon trading market, the Chicago Carbon Exchange. This means the county must reduce its total energy consumption by 2 percent per year, which Desmond believes will help King County become a leader in the future of carbon cap and trade: “If we can help set the rules in a way that makes sense for the transit industry…we actually have to expend more energy in order to do that,” he said.

Simple Changes, Major Improvements
Jim Boon, manager of vehicle maintenance for KCMT, is responsible for 1,400 vehicles, including hybrid-electric and diesel.
 He noted that KCMT has standardized power platforms to identify anomalies in emissions and consumption. Diesel fuel produces about 22 pounds of waste carbon per gallon. King County has a standing Renewable Energy order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2012 and 35 percent by 2015, based on 2006 levels.

This will be a challenge, Boon said: The bus fleet is growing in size and complexity, ridership is increasing, and the fleet includes more articulated buses. The 2006 baseline was 2.26 pounds of carbon dioxide per boarding. The 2015 goal is to reduce that 15 percent.

Don’t Overlook Facilities
Jerry Rutledge, facilities main director for KCMT, said the system is involved in a LEED-certified building program. The approach is that all new construction is to receive LEED NC certification, and operations and maintenance of buildings will be certified as LEED EB.

For example, he said: “We were able to replace an earthquake-damaged building several years ago, and that was LEED certified.” KCMT also moved replaced its communications and control center with a new LEED-certified building in 2007. Its power distribution headquarters, built in 2007, is also LEED certified, as is its central base tire shop. On the drawing board is a central base operations building, for which the 2009 final design is seeking LEED gold certification.

Sustainability is not just about large projects; small steps are important as well, Rutledge noted. He cited the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle, with “recycle” being the last resort.

At the May 6 session titled Measuring Success When Making a Commitment to Sustainability, several APTA business and transit system members discussed the impact of the new APTA Sustainability Pilot Program on their organizations. 

Cynthia Hoyle of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District in Urbana, IL, pointed to several tactics her system is incorporating into its sustainability program, including a Zipcar program; guaranteed rides home; and the purchase of nine hybrid buses. “The sustainability commitment was really helpful for us,” she said, “because if you’re doing all these things you’re probably not measuring them and doing before and after. So signing onto this commitment really helped us organize and focus what we’re doing.”

The chief executive officer and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA), Joseph Calabrese, said he “knew we were doing things green” by virtue of being public transit. “We did sign up, and it was great to come up with list of things we were already doing—from recycling water and reducing paper use by printing double-sided.” In addition, GCRTA was one of the first public transit systems to get into compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel and ultra-low-sulfur diesel, he said. Now, the system is aggressively enforcing anti-idling with operators and putting in very bike-friendly policies. In addition, “We’re using a lot of our stimulus money for station design” to obtain LEED certification, Calabrese said.

Jennifer Kalczuk, external relations manager for Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) in Grand Rapids, MI, said her system did an extensive lighting review of all its of its facilities. She cited a nighttime canopy that used high-wattage incandescent bulbs but switched to compact fluorescent bulbs. The result: a savings of $24,000 in maintenance and energy costs per year. A similar project in a bus garage saved $17,000 annually. For a continuously running compressed air system, finding and repairing leaks saved more than $24,000.

Susannah Kerr Adler, vice president, manager-Architecture & Buildings Resource Center, with Parsons Brinckerhoff, said her company, like many others, has had sustainability policies since early this decade. But PB is working to coordinate and consolidate those efforts. The APTA Sustainability Commitment “is a really good mechanism to organize our thinking,” she said.

Her advice for other companies and transit systems? “It’s absolutely critical that both the board and the general manager really endorse the notion of sustainability,” she said.

« Previous Article Return to Top | Return to Main Next Article »

© Copyright © 2008 American Public Transportation Association 1666 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 496-4800 • Fax (202) 496-4321

Search Back Issues