Manager's Forum

Grand Rapids, Mich.
Peter J. Varga, CEO
Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid)

The Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) has engaged in numerous new technologies and other practices that saved us dollars. We were the first transit agency to build a LEED- (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified transit facility in the country, Rapid Central Station. It was built with a number of green features and strategies, and represents cutting-edge technology paired with solid design to provide passengers with a transfer hub that is both functionally sound and environmentally responsible.

Special design features of Rapid Central Station include a green roof — a layer of live sedum growing on the flat portions of the roof — to reduce storm water runoff and provide an extra layer of insulation that keeps the building warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, reducing the need for mechanical temperature control. The green roof saves on costs for heating and cooling, and has extended the life of our roof replacement three fold. The plan now is to replace the roof in 70 years since the sedum is expected to significantly increase the useful life of the roof itself by shielding it from UV rays.

Another aspect was installation of a snow melt heating system in the pavement of the bus loading and platform areas, which has saved us operating costs for snow removal in the winter as well as reducing the potential loss due to slips and falls by our passengers. The terrazzo floor, which dominates the passenger waiting area and the mezzanine, makes use of recycled glass, providing a very dramatic, yet durable, flooring surface. The floor surface can last up to 100 years with little maintenance.

Operationally, the building’s mechanical systems were verified to ensure that they are designed, installed and calibrated to operate as intended. Energy performance strategies were put into place to ensure optimum energy efficiency. As an example, motion sensors control the majority of the lighting on the upper floors.

The costs associated with designing and building an environmentally friendly facility were only slightly higher than it would have been to not include these green features, however the operational cost savings associated with going green will save us dollars over time. It is difficult to quantify the savings; because the facility is new construction, there is no baseline for comparison.

Sustainable practices at The Rapid also generally save us operating dollars. For example, we discontinued the idling of our buses at layover points and at terminals. Data collected from the period of June 15 to Oct. 1 in both 2006 and 2007, indicates that, fleetwide, fuel mileage increased 4.9 percent during that period.

Also in 2007, we utilized the Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center to perform an energy audit of our facilities. This audit consisted of a comprehensive lighting analysis, an air system mapping, tagging and analysis and a HVAC analysis. All facilities were audited. We replaced the 120 metal halide lights in the bus storage and 29 metal halide lamps in the maintenance bays with energy-efficient T8 fixtures.

Total annual cost savings: $17,061 in bus storage area and $9,789 in the maintenance bays for a total savings of $26,850.

The air compression system was audited using ultrasonic detection to pinpoint leaks in the system and the leaks fixed by facilities staff, provides annual cost savings of $25,222. The facilities department has now purchased an ultrasonic detector and periodic system audits can be completed by staff.

The construction of a LEED station and its green features and the various technology and innovative practices in going green has saved us both short-term operating and long-term capital dollars for our agency.