APTA | Passenger Transport
August 3, 2009

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6 DBE opportunities


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Case Study: Los Angeles: Creating Sustainability in Paradise
BY CRIS B. LIBAN, D.Env., P.E., Environmental Compliance and Services Department Manager, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

How can a public transportation agency contribute to Los Angeles’ sustainability? How are we helping this paradise adapt to the issues of climate change and energy challenges?

As a recognized leader in environmental responsibility, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has implemented many firsts for the transportation industry. We accomplished most of our sustainability-related work within the last two years. How did we do it?

This article talks about our success and how we reach out to stimulate our struggling economy, and help others learn with us—and themselves become successful.

Our Beginning
Metro’s sustainability efforts are rooted in initiatives endorsed by our board of directors in response to legislative efforts that affect our agency’s activities, particularly California Assembly Bill (AB) 32 and Senate Bill (SB) 375. AB 32, approved by the California legislature and signed into law in September 2006, is an overarching law to protect the state from catastrophic economic, environmental, and social consequences of global climate change. SB 375 is the nation’s first law to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by curbing sprawl, signed into law in September 2008.

As Los Angeles County’s transportation planner, designer, builder, and operator of transit facilities, Metro contributes to the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of the region by reducing congestion, improving air quality, and providing mobility. However, due to the nature of our operations, we also create significant environmental impacts. We must reduce these impacts to meet our core mission of continuously improving an efficient, sustainable, and effective transportation system for the county.

Recognizing this issue, we consciously began building our foundation to ensure that our work complements the work of others in our collective regional journey toward a sustainable future.

Policies and Plans
Our board recently adopted the Metro Environmental Policy to signify our commitment to environmental protection using Environmental Management Systems (EMS). This policy provides a platform for the agency’s commitment to using sustainable principles and practices in all of our planning, construction, operations, and procurement activities.

Also, our Metro Energy and Sustainability Policy complements the intent of the Environmental Policy by requiring that any new construction greater than 10,000 square feet incorporate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principles with the goal of achieving LEED-Silver certification.

In addition, we have developed a comprehensive Metro Sustainability Implementation Plan (MSIP) outlining short-term and long-term projects. This document guides us in the projects and tasks we need to accomplish and helps us track our progress in fulfilling the deadlines we have set.

Our staff responds to our Ad-Hoc Sustainability and Climate Change Committee to report on our progress in the development and implementation our sustainability program. Metro has recently adopted Goal #9--sustain the environment with efficiency and reduce GHG emissions—as one of its strategic goals.

Institutionalizing Sustainability
We have made significant progress in the last two years. Metro has commenced aggressive programs to ensure that sustainability becomes a core element of its ongoing work.

Currently, we are working to make “green thinking” a part of our culture. In partnership with local educational institutions, we recently began a Sustainability Awareness Training program for Metro staff. Key to the training is the creation of Personal Sustainability Initiatives (PSI) to develop, document, implement, and improve sustainability performance within the personal workspace.

We are developing an EMS with initial pilot programs at two of our divisions. The purpose of these projects is to streamline the environmental process, reduce the impacts of our operations, and ensure that environmental performance consistently exceeds compliance. Metro will roll out the system to all divisions after completing the pilots.

We report our GHG emissions and sustainability efforts on an annual basis, calculating the initial estimate of emissions in 2008 using The Climate Registry General Reporting Protocol. We are currently engaged in developing transit-specific inventory protocols with other transit properties through APTA to include the three elements of mode shift: vehicle miles traveled, land use, and congestion reduction.

We host an annual Sustainability Summit to bring together regional stakeholders focused on these issues; the second summit was held in May of 2009. We continue to engage our summit participants through quarterly discussions of the issues raised during the event.

Conserving Energy, Installing Renewable Projects
We have installed solar panels and energy conservation measures at four of our facilities. These projects generate about 1.85 megawatts of energy and reduce GHG emissions by 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e) per year, making them among the largest installation of their kind in the transit industry.

We have applied for additional funding and explored partnerships to further expand our renewable energy portfolio to our other bus divisions, rail facilities, and our park-and-ride stations. We also recently began an agency-wide energy audit on the remainder of our facilities.

Building Green
In keeping with the policy dictating that construction of buildings greater than 10,000 square feet meets the minimum LEED-New Construction (NC) Silver Certification standard, our new Division 9 San Gabriel Valley Sector Transportation Building received LEED-NC Gold certification.

We also began an assessment of our Gateway Headquarters Building to obtain LEED-EBOM (Existing Building Operation and Maintenance) certification. Our headquarters has a significant number of cost-saving opportunities associated with reduced utility use and conservation.

We are incorporating sustainability design guidelines using LEED principles in major capital projects, beginning with the Metro Orange Line Extension in Canoga Park, CA.

Leading in Clean Fleet Operations
In 2000, Metro adopted a policy of purchasing only alternative fuel vehicles for our bus fleet. We now operate the nation’s largest compressed natural gas-powered (CNG) bus fleet. These buses generate less air pollution components than traditional diesel buses.

We continue to explore the potential of other advanced technologies, including hybrid, composite, mixed fuel, and fuel cell vehicles.

Expanding Mobility, Accessibility, and Livability
Metro is working to reduce the need to drive in Los Angeles by providing quality transit service. We want to turn Los Angeles into a transit-friendly region through our more than 30 joint development efforts—thus improving the lives of all Angelenos.

We met our 2025 rail ridership goals of 269,710 weekly boardings 17 years early: in 2008, we surpassed this goal by more than 30,000 rail riders.

Other Efforts
While we recognize the importance of these accomplishments, we have already set our sights on the next steps. We are involved in the following projects to further improve sustainability performance:

* Staff recently completed “Towards a Sustainable Future: June 2009 Baseline Sustainability Report.” This report has two specific goals: to provide information that our decision makers can use to improve Metro’s sustainability performance and to inform the public on this performance. Recommendations are currently being addressed.
* We are developing a Climate Action Plan to determine the most efficient and effective ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.
* We are designing our Water Action Plan to find the most efficient and effective ways to reduce our water use. We recently adopted an agency-wide Water Use and Conservation Policy, which will form the foundation of the water plan.
* We are conducting pilot studies to determine the feasibility of including other alternative fuel buses in our fleet.
* We will conform to the intent of the “Green Chemistry” principles now in practice in California. Green chemistry encourages the design of products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances.
* We are considering a green procurement policy that will reduce the environmental impact of our purchases and will use our leverage as a large consumer to drive the economic markets in favor of sustainable products.
* In addition to these efforts, we will continue our campaign to increase ridership and remove single-occupant vehicles from the road.

Our staff will continue the implementation of our current and planned projects. We have signed on to the APTA Sustainability Commitment.

In addition, we have publicly committed to ensuring the inclusion of sustainability principles on projects to be constructed under the new funding mechanisms such as Measure R and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

At Metro, we look at sustainability not as an expense, but as an investment for our future. We continue to work with our stakeholders countywide to develop key strategies that further enhance our ability to influence regional sustainability efforts.

Our compliance with climate change-related statutes and regulations and our ability to reduce operations costs, protect the environment, and provide a safe and healthy workplace depends on our ability to maintain the current situation and develop new sustainable projects. We do what we do to achieve the intent of our environmental policies, fulfill our Strategic Goal #9, and inspire others to participate in our region’s progress toward sustainability.

Living in paradise has its price. We are doing our share to keep that price low.

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