The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) is a small agency that accomplishes big things. Our participation in the “green” movement is no different. The key to our success is company-wide, cross-departmental buy-in.
One of the earliest, most significant projects we did involved our buses. Our director of maintenance began work with Dr. Xinlei Wang, an associate professor of bioenvironmental engineering at the University of Illinois to study the feasibility and impact of installing diesel particulate filters on the exhaust systems. The EPA funded the study, which began in the winter of 2007, and the design and construction of four filters. The filters were placed on in-service buses and monitored for three years. Dr. Wang found that the filter captured 90 percent of the diesel sub-particulates and 75 to 85 percent of the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide emitted from the engine. Over the course of a year, a single filter captured six tons of pollution.
The success of the initial filters resulted in the donation of funds for three more by the American Lung Association in spring 2009. The impact of the filters was multiplied when we received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) through U.S. EPA funding to purchase an additional 43 filters in February 2010. Currently, 80 percent of our fleet is clean-burning. As we purchased new hybrid buses in 2009 and 2011 (another green choice), we installed a diesel particulate filter on each bus. We plan to retire more vehicles from the 1990s in the next two years. This will lead to 100 percent of our fleet burning diesel fuel cleanly.
The pollution reduction makes a great public relations piece, in addition to being a wonderful gift to the environment. Our Maintenance Department worked hard to install the initial 50 filters and invests time maintaining them.
Bus idling presents a challenge to the filters. When a bus is in operation, the engine reaches temperatures hot enough to burn the particulate matter into ash. But when a bus idles, the diesel is burned at lower temperatures causing the filters to get plugged up before the particulate can turn into ash. This negative outcome must be remedied by “cooking” the filter for 24 to 48 hours. The Maintenance Department needed the Operations Department to change the behaviors of our drivers.
An Idling Procedure was enacted that instructs operators to turn-off their vehicle if they are remaining stationary for more than three minutes. Adherence to the policy results in a reduced footprint, functioning filters and a time savings.
Another multi-year project MTD committed to was the development and implementation of an environmental management system. We were enrolled into the FTA’s Environmental and Sustainability Management System Institute in the fall of 2010.
By the end of 2011, MTD will have a complete environmental management system to prepare all 300-plus employees for spills and emergencies, as well as institute dozens of environmentally positive practices and safeguards against waste. MTD’s EMS will allow us to apply for ISO 14001 certification, which is an international accreditation.
The policies, procedures and documentation require time and collaboration. Once the plans are in place, operators and technicians will need to be trained and retrained on a regular basis.
There are benefits to creating and implementing an EMS outside of being responsible stewards of the planet. Having plans in place for possible fuel, oil, or other lost resources saves money and keeps MTD in line with local, state and federal regulations. It also keeps our workforce educated and aware of possible mishaps. Creating a formal documentation process will also help combat a knowledge dearth with turnovers and retirements.
Other projects include the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system, white roof and adding reclaimer and recycled water tanks for our bus wash. See the “Go Green” section of our website to learn more, www.cumtd.com.