August 3, 2009
In this weeks Classifieds, you'll find:
6 DBE opportunities
King County Metro: Poised to Go for Gold
BY KEVIN DESMOND, General Manager, King County Metro Transit, Seattle, WA
The Pacific Northwest region that is home to King County Metro Transit boasts a wealth of natural resources and beauty, and the area’s residents strongly support efforts to protect our cherished environment. King County Metro Transit has long shared the public’s commitment to environmental stewardship; we have been doing our part by helping to build a robust public transportation system and by adopting green operating practices throughout our agency.
So we welcomed the opportunity this year to sign APTA’s Sustainability Commitment at the Gold level. This rigorous program calls for us to take actions that will expand sustainability programs we have in place—and will spur us to find new ways to help our region thrive for generations to come.
Our efforts to reduce our environmental footprint will build on a policy foundation established by far-sighted elected officials, specifically former King County Executive Ron Sims. Sims—who as a county council member called for action to combat global warming as early as 1988—launched a plan for the county in 2007 that set a goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below current levels by 2050. He also issued an order requiring the county to minimize energy use through increased efficiency, optimized operation and maintenance, and conservation.
Metro had been using green practices before these policy measures were in place, but we redoubled our efforts to meet the new, ambitious goals. Here are a few highlights of our programs and achievements.
* Metro became a leader in developing hybrid buses when we faced the need to replace a fleet of aging coaches in 2000. The transit agency collaborated with its regional partner, Sound Transit, and a team of national manufacturers to create a new hybrid bus that operates on ultra-low sulfur-diesel and electricity generated by the vehicle. Since then, Metro’s growing fleet of hybrids—now numbering 235—has put up impressive numbers: an improvement of 40 percent in fuel economy compared to conventional buses; a 30 to 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide; a 50 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides; and 90 percent reductions in particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons.
* Our pioneering ride-sharing program has more than 1,000 commuter vans on the road. A study of Metro’s VanPool service concluded that, by removing more than 5,000 commuters from county roads in 2007, the program avoided both the production of 21,000 tons of greenhouse gases and the consumption of more than two million gallons of fossil fuel.
* We started an aggressive recycling program. Going beyond the typical paper and glass recycling efforts, Metro also recycles or reuses engine oil, coolant, street sweepings, landscape waste, electronic scrap, broken bus-shelter glass, and more. One transit facility has a worm bin for recycling food scraps. As a result, in 2008 we avoided the disposal of 94,000 gallons of engine oil, 15,000 gallons of coolant, and 45,000 light bulbs. This program received the 2004 EPA WasteWise Hall of Fame Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
* We at Metro are following a plan to sustain our physical plant far into the future through an industry-leading Transit Asset Management Program. As lighting, HVAC, and other systems wear out, we replace them with modern and highly energy-efficient technologies.
* Metro’s Design and Construction Group employs green practices as we replace and add new facilities. All of the half-dozen building projects undertaken over the past two years either have or will achieve LEED certification. Our new Transit Control Center proudly bears LEED Gold certification.
* Another innovation is our Green Cleaning program, launched by our custodial team several years ago. This program is based on the team’s policy to provide service “in a manner that is earth and human friendly.” It aims to improve employees’ health by reducing their exposure to cleaning chemicals, improving air quality, and making the work environment safe and sanitary. To attain this goal, the team overhauled its set of cleaning supplies and procedures, reducing the number of products it uses from 32 to just two, both of which carry “green seal” certification.
Supervisors trained all custodial staff members in new green cleaning procedures—and faced some challenges. For one, microfiber mops and rags were a hard sell to the custodial crew. “People liked their mops and buckets,” said supervisor Peggy Meyer. They were accustomed to using them, and not sure anything else would work as well. But after trying the lighter-weight mops and learning about microfiber’s benefits (such as using less water), custodial employees were glad to make the switch.”
I consider our work to expand the transit system and ridership as part of our sustainability program as well; we cannot meet our greenhouse-gas emission goals unless we reduce the number of cars on the road. Our efforts include attractive new services like RapidRide Bus Rapid Transit, marketing campaigns that highlight the environmental benefits of using transit, and innovations in customer communication.
I am encouraged by the fact that Metro’s ridership rose by 20 percent in the past three years, outpacing the growth rates for vehicle miles traveled, population, and employment in our region.
We are eager to meet the challenge of serving the public while sustaining our environment, and look forward to sharing success stories with other APTA members who have made the sustainability commitment.