APTA | Passenger Transport
August 3, 2009

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» SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES
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6 DBE opportunities

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11 RFPs

 
SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES

Sustainability, Community, and Capital Planning in Bridgeport, CT
Special to Passenger Transport

On April 22, 2009, Greater Bridgeport Transit (GBT)—like hundreds of other public transit agencies across the U.S.—celebrated Earth Day by promoting the role public transportation plays in healthy communities. Through a series of events, the agency highlighted the environmental benefits of its bus services and broadcast them throughout the service area.

The focus of GBT’s Earth Day effort was to thank riders for the contribution they make to a cleaner environment by choosing to use public transportation.

GBT is now looking to the not-so-distant future where the service itself, its facilities and equipment, and its participation in local land use decisions become part of a concerted effort to move to a cleaner operation and reduced dependence on non-renewable resources.

When the Bridgeport transit agency became a signatory to APTA’s Sustainability Commitment in May 2009, it did so with the understanding that it would need to revisit its capital planning process, particularly major capital investments, to ensure more careful consideration and incorporation of new technologies, renewable resources, and sources of renewable energy, along with their costs, into the plan.

Sustainability is now a key element in the agency’s two largest capital projects: the expansion and improvement of its administrative and maintenance facility and the upcoming replacement of one-third of its bus fleet.

When GBT retained a design team for its facility expansion and improvement project, now in the site planning phase, important selection criteria were the team’s experience in the use of recycled or renewable materials in construction, the uses of alternative energy sources in the operation of the facility and experience in LEED-certified construction projects. Today, the conceptual design may include a 70,000-square-foot vegetative roof on the administrative building—addressing stormwater runoff, heat loss, and energy use—and a 35,000-square-foot photovoltaic array, or “solar farm,” on the maintenance facility. The solar farm should be able to meet all of the agency’s electricity needs.

GBT is also committed to reducing the environmental footprint of its fleet, incorporating options for hybrid diesel-electric vehicles in its upcoming replacement of 15 fixed route buses. In May of 2009, the agency joined an effort led by the Greater New Haven Transit District to pilot the use of hydrogen-powered hydraulic buses in paratransit service. Both of these projects are seeking funding through the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The agency is also exploring avenues for improvement in its sustainability commitment on a daily basis, with measures including ultra-low-diesel fuel; a vehicle repower program involving the remainder of GBT’s large bus fleet, which will incorporate the latest technology in emissions reduction; and in cleaning products and recycling programs. GBT will include alternative fuel technology in its service vehicle procurements, already incorporating hybrid support vehicles into its fleet.

The inclusion of sustainability principles in GBT’s capital planning process was among the first steps in “greening” its overall operation. Equally important are the agency’s efforts to become an integral part of local and regional land use decisions. GBT is actively involved in two major initiatives in the city of Bridgeport, including the Downtown Plan Task Force (DPTF) and the Sustainability Plan.

The DPTF is overseeing the implementation of the Downtown Master Plan, which envisions a dense, pedestrian-friendly, active, and vibrant downtown. One component of this plan is the proposed creation of a parking authority; GBT has recommended, and has received support for, broadening the scope of this authority beyond simply managing the supply of parking to helping reduce the demand for parking. In this way, the parking authority could become a full-fledged mobility manager in the central city, coordinating car sharing, universal, or eco-pass programs, parking pricing, and shared use lots and transit services and pedestrian amenities.

The Bridgeport Sustainability Plan aims to make Bridgeport the greenest city in New England. Ron Kilcoyne, chief executive officer of GBT, co-chairs the city’s Transportation and Land Use working group, which is developing strategies to significantly reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), leading to less greenhouse gas output, reduced energy consumption, and improved air quality while also removing barriers to development. Between 15 and 20 percent of previously developed land in Bridgeport is vacant, providing opportunities for dense infill that is an antidote to sprawl.

One recommendation being developed is that the city adopt a “Transit First” policy with several specific recommendations on reducing VMT at the same time that new development is generating more trips.

GBT is poised to grow with the region, playing a large role in encouraging more environmentally responsible transportation choices and—by “walking the walk”—being a good environmental citizen in its daily operations and capital initiatives.

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