Manager's Forum

At the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), sustainability is an effort of the entire transit agency. Employees are involved in every aspect of projects from submitting ideas to designing, purchasing and operating. Sustainability can only be achieved with the whole staff on board working toward a better environment for the community and long-term financial savings for the organization. We view this as our responsibility to the citizens of this region who are our stakeholders and supporters of the dedicated sales tax toward transit.

Sustainable Efforts

CATS has put several sustainability efforts into action. Each CATS’-owned and operated park-and-ride facility is designed with green elements in mind, such as rain gardens wet ponds. Rain gardens collect, store and infiltrate storm water runoff, replenishing the groundwater. They contain various soil types and can vary in size depending on the area that needs drainage and available space. Rain gardens also provide a cost savings for the city by reducing repairs on downstream storm water systems and wastewater treatment. Our park-and-ride lots are a great example of how natural elements can make a difference for years to come.

The North Davidson Bus Facility, constructed in 1981, is being renovated and expanded with the assistance of $20.7 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funds through the Transit Capital Assistance Urbanized Program.

It includes a two-story administration and operations building, a three-level maintenance building, and a fuel and wash facility. The renovations will improve operations by updating facility conditions, upgrading mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and replacing original bus maintenance equipment. These improvements will provide operational efficiencies and delay the need for a third bus facility.

A key part of reaching our sustainability goals is ensuring the vendors who have signed up to do business with the city of Charlotte are educated and aware of today’s sustainability efforts and up to date on the latest environmental technology and techniques. CATS’ procurement section and civil rights program are in constant contact with potential contractors and keep an open dialogue of what is occurring in the transit industry.

In our everyday operations we are keeping our costs down by maintaining a fleet of similar buses, which allows us to reduce the number of warranties and spare parts CATS needs to keep on hand. Procurement and Bus Operations work closely together in this effort as we replace the older buses in the fleet.

Increasing Efficiencies

CATS also has increased operations efficiencies with a special emphasis on anti-idling efforts and we’ve seen significant improvements. In fact just between April and May of this year, Bus Operations reduced anti idling by 18 percent. We’ve seen an overall improvement of 6 percent over the past 12 months. The money saved by reducing fuel consumption is put back into the Operations budget to help cover pension plan payments.

As funding allows, CATS is adding diesel electric hybrid buses to the fleet. Currently our fleet consists of seven hybrid buses, with six more being ordered this summer. The hybrid buses have shown a 34 percent improvement in miles per gallon compared to a diesel bus, saving more than 3,200 gallons of fuel annually for each bus. We estimate the annual fuel savings for six buses is more than 19,000 gallons.

CATS has also seen a reduction in maintenance costs for its hybrids compared to its diesel fleet, with a 40 percent improvement in this area in the early years.

Planning for a Green Future

Finally, as CATS plans for the future, a major component of our 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan is the integration of land use and creating options for how residents want to live.

Building an integrated land use and transit system is key to managing the rapid growth occurring in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area and transforming existing communities into better places to live and work.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s land use vision focuses on higher density residential and employment growth in transit station areas and major activity centers/hubs where it can be best accommodated by transportation services and other public facilities. It is also important to ensure that the new development takes advantage of access to transit and helps promote transit use in the community.

Sustainability needs to be the focus of any transit organization from the beginning to the end of a project. As service providers we owe it to our customers to run as efficiently as we can. And as a member of the community, it is vital that we work hard every day to improve the quality of life for citizens and provide alternatives over congestion.

Manager’s Forum goes to the front lines of the transit industry to get feed-back on different topics relevant to passenger transportation — and we want to hear from you! If you have an idea for discussion or would like to voice your opinion, please contact Leah Harnack at 262.391.8770 or via email at