The public transportation industry is committed to using environmentally friendly technologies. From using solar bus shelters, operating environmentally-friendly bus and rail vehicles, recycling bus wash water, and incorporating rain gardens at Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations, the U.S. public transportation industry is committed to using green technologies to further reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality and help our country reach energy independence.
“Earth Day is every day for the tens of millions of Americans who use public transportation. The public transportation industry has made significant strides in making its operations even more environmentally friendly,” said American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “Public transportation use not only helps reduce our carbon footprint, but it also helps people save money. With high gas prices as a way of life and the demand for public transit growing, access to public transportation is more important than ever.”
Currently, public transportation in the U.S. saves 37 million metric tons of carbon emissions and 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline. A carbon savings calculator is available on www.publictransportation.org. The Federal Transit Administration just launched an Earth Day website at www.fta.dot.gov/earthday that provides additional information on the importance of public transportation to the environment.
Founded in 2009, APTA’s Sustainability Commitment program is a voluntary program for members to join and pledge their commitment to sustainability. This program places a priority on preserving the environment, being socially responsible, and maintaining economic viability, with an overall contribution to quality of life. APTA members who sign on commit to implementing core internal processes and actions that set the basis for continuous improvement on these key sustainability element. Signatories can obtain increasingly higher levels of recognition – Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum – by attaining reduction targets for a series of set indicators.
Listed below are just a few green activities at public transportation systems that improve the environment:
• Atlanta, Ga. – Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority has the largest solar canopy installation at a bus garage in Georgia. It is also the second largest solar canopy structure of its kind at a U.S. public transportation system. The solar panels generate enough electricity to offset a significant portion of this bus facility’s annual electricity consumption and has the same environmental benefit as planting more than 285 acres of trees a year.
• Baltimore, Md. – Maryland Transit Administration installed more than 3,700 “thin film” solar panels on the roof of MTA’s Northwest Bus Division — supplying 18 percent of their electric needs and saving over $68,000 per year.
• Boston, Mass. – Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority currently owns and operates one wind turbine and is going to build a second one this summer. With a board mandate that 20 percent of purchased electricity come from certified renewable energy sources, the MBTA is looking to introduce solar into its portfolio. The MBTA anticipates a cost savings of between $200,000 and $250,000 annually.
• Chicago, Ill. – Pace Bus has purchased solar-powered advertising bus stop shelters, which provide nighttime illumination with no energy cost.
• Detroit, Mich. - Detroit Transportation Corporation operates energy-efficient LED and metal halide lighting in several of its Detroit People Mover stations, with lamp sources installed to run for 50,000 hours and a 50 percent improvement in output, color and lumens, respectively. A green roof at the Joe Louis Arena Station is reducing the carbon footprint with reclaimed rainwater and a 40-year lifespan.
• El Paso, Texas – Sun Metro is preparing to install 100 new bus shelters with solar-powered lighting.
• Greensboro, N.C. - Greensboro Transit Authority recently opened a new LEED Gold Status GTA Operations/Maintenance Facility and Administrative Offices which features solar water heating, motion-activated lights and faucets, radiant floor heating, LED lighting and Greensboro’s first vegetative roof.
• Indianapolis, Ind. – IndyGo is constructing Phase II of its building upgrades to include: new air handling units, heat pumps, and diffusers to create more efficient air flow and improved air quality, new lighting to replace older bulbs with LED bulbs and occupancy sensors in each office.
• Kansas City, Mo. - Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s BRT stations incorporate rain gardens, solar lighting and pervious concrete.
• Louisville, Ky. – Transit Authority of River City is making improvements to headquarters at historic Union Station, built in 1891. The energy efficiency improvements to Union Station mean 250,000 tons of greenhouse gases will not enter the atmosphere each year.
• Minneapolis, Minn. – Metro Transit has used Xcel Energy's Windsource program to demonstrate that light rail can run on 100 percent wind power.
• Oakland, Calif. – AC Transit has 12 hydrogen fuel cell buses in a fleet of 680 buses. On April 10, AC Transit and a coalition of regional transit partners serving 7 million people in the Bay Area, unveiled the latest generation of zero-emission fuel cell buses and the newest hydrogen production and dispensing station entering service. The station will not only service AC Transit’s buses, but it will be the first large-scale publicly accessible station to support the deployment of fuel cell cars to customers in the Bay Area.
• Oakland, Calif. - Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority’s fleet of locomotives have always been among the most advanced, cleanest in the nation. All currently meet EPA TIER 0, emission standards. For the past four years, Caltrans (the entity that owns the fleet) has been upgrading the shared locomotives (Capitol Corridor and San Joaquin) to EPA's TIER 2 standards. So far, eight locomotives have been retrofitted, two are in the process of being retrofitted.
• Oakland, Calif. – San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District uses Environmental Design standards for water conservation, energy efficiency, sustainable construction materials and indoor environmental quality. Rooftop solar installations are under development at two transit yards. Recycling at train washing facilities saves 876,000 gallons of water per year.
• Olympia, Wash. - Intercity Transit installed solar lights in 20 shelters as a demonstration project.
• Orange, Calif. – Orange County Transportation Authority utilizes solar lights to provide lighting for customers at more than 1,200 bus stops.
• Philadelphia, Pa. – SEPTA switched to daytime cleaning at SEPTA Headquarters building, to reduce energy use and costs by allowing lights to stay off at night. This has increased energy efficiency by almost 10 percent, and has helped SEPTA save over $100,000 annually on electric costs.
• Pompano Beach, Fla. - South Florida Regional Transportation Authority / Tri-Rail has plans to rebuild a LEED certified Pompano Beach Station. It will be totally self sufficient from an energy perspective through the use of solar panels, with the panels providing 110 percent of the requirements to operate the station. Native landscaping will be used to minimize the need for watering.
• Santa Monica, Calif. – Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus has a recycled water bus wash, and all of its facilities were built with renewable/sustainable materials.
• Stockton, Calif. – San Joaquin Regional Transit District will have 18 solar-powered bus shelters by the end of this fiscal year.
• Urbana, Ill. - Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District has two bus simulators to train, retrain and test drivers. The simulators decrease the amount of training time on the road, which translates to reduced fuel consumption, emissions, traffic and wear and tear on the buses and road.
As of 2011, hybrid buses, natural gas buses, and biodiesel fueled vehicles were common among public transit systems and made up nearly 35.6 percent of all transit buses. Listed below are examples of the diversity of bus fleets across the country in small, mid-sized, and large systems, including some Earth Day bus events and announcements regarding new buses.
• Ann Arbor, Mich. - Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s hybrid electric buses account for more than half of its fleet.
• Atlanta, Ga. – Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s entire bus fleet of 531 buses uses clean fuel technology and 355 buses in the fleet use compressed natural gas (CNG), which significantly reduces air pollutants in the Atlanta region.
• Baltimore, Md. – Maryland Transit Administration is buying 57 more hybrid diesel-electric buses in 2012 and now operates over 230 hybrid buses – nearly one third of the total fleet.
• Canton, Ohio – Stark Area Regional Transit Authority will be launching their new CNG buses and fueling stations on May 18. This is the first public fueling station in Stark County.
• Chicago, Ill. – Pace Bus put two hybrid buses into service on April 11. Ten hybrid paratransit vehicles are already in service.
• Cincinnati, Ohio – Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority will be adding five new "mini-hybrid" buses to the 27 hybrid buses in its fleet at the end of April.
• Cleveland, Ohio – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s entire fleet of buses are equipped with bike racks. Environmentally friendly fuels – electric rail cars, and clean diesel and hybrid-electric buses – power 100 percent of RTA’s fleet.
• Columbus, Ohio – Central Ohio Transit Authority will be obtaining its first CNG buses. Thirty are scheduled to arrive in 2013, the first step to transitioning its entire fleet over to CNG by the expected year of 2025. Adding to its current fleet of six diesel-electric hybrid buses, COTA received its first hybrid cutaway bus in 2012 for its paratransit Mainstream service.
• Corpus Christi, Texas – Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority will receive its first CNG buses this fall.
• Denver, Colo. – Regional Transportation District’s fleet of 36 FREE MallRide buses on the downtown Denver 16th Street Mall are ultra low emission natural-gas and battery-powered, true hybrid-electric vehicles. Within the last seven years, RTD has purchased more than 400 new buses operating on new ultra-low-sulfur diesel.
• El Paso, Texas – Sun Metro recently purchased 40 new paratransit vehicles and four transit supervisor vehicles, so now 100 percent of El Paso’s fleet will run on compressed natural gas.
• Forth Worth, Texas - Fort Worth Transportation Authority fuels its full fleet of regular route buses on compressed natural gas and was among the first transit agencies to begin converting to compressed natural gas in 1988.
• Greensboro, N.C. - Greensboro Transit Authority now has a total of four hybrid buses.
• Indianapolis, Ind. – IndyGo is purchasing four additional hybrid buses this year.
• Kansas City, Mo. - Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has five BRT hybrid electric buses and an all electric service truck that cleans transit stations
• Kent, Ohio - Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority currently uses bio-based fuel, engine oil, gear oil, hydraulic fluid, and penetrating oil. PARTA will use approximately 1,400 gallons of bio-based motor oil this year in their 68 vehicle fleet.
• Milwaukee, Wis. - Milwaukee County Transit System purchased 125 new clean-diesel buses in 2010 and 2011. An additional 55 clean diesel buses are being delivered in 2012 and a total of 136 low-emission vehicles will be added to the fleet by 2013. The 261 low-emission buses will then make up more than half of the 420 bus fleet.
• Minneapolis, Minn. – Metro Transit will operate 132 hybrid buses – about 15 percent of its fleet – by the end of 2012. In addition to operating quietly, the hybrid buses use 34 percent less fuel than standard buses on comparable routes and produce a fraction of the air quality emissions of buses they replace.
• Orange, Calif. – Orange County Transportation Authority’s vehicles fleet is comprised of primarily lower-emission buses, including 228 LNG and 299 CNG buses. OCTA’s relief vehicle fleet – cars used by coach operators to change shifts in the field – is comprised of 87 Priuses. Additionally, OCTA is replacing non-revenue vehicles, such as forklifts, utility trucks and vans with ultra-lower emission vehicles
• Philadelphia, Pa. – SEPTA has 472 cleaner burning diesel-electric hybrid buses. These vehicles now make up approximately one-third of SEPTA’s total bus fleet. The amount of hybrids in service will continue to increase as older buses are retired and replaced with new hybrids.
• Phoenix, Ariz. – Valley Metro RPTA is retrofitting as many as 70 buses with an innovative electric engine cooling fan system that is cost effective and lowers pollutant emissions. A nine percent reduction in fuel consumption is anticipated.
• San Bernardino, Calif. – Omnitrans’ bus fleet of 160 buses is 100 percent CNG powered and Omnitrans recently selected gasoline/electric hybrid Ford Fusions for its relief car fleet.
• Santa Barbara, Calif. - Santa Barbara MTD operates North America’s largest fleet of 100 percent battery electric buses. Additionally, MTD was the first in California to operate its fleet of diesel and diesel-electric buses with a bio-diesel blend of fuel.
• Santa Monica, Calif. – Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus’ entire fleet (including service vehicles) is 95 percent alternatively-fueled.
• State College, Pa. - Centre Area Transportation Authority’s entire fleet runs on clean CNG and it is in the process of taking receipt of 28 new CNG buses. It was the first transit agency on the East Coast to have completed a program that resulted in a fleet fueled entirely by alternative fuels.
• Stockton, Calif. – San Joaquin Regional Transit District’s diesel-electric hybrid buses will account for 46 percent of its fleet after the launch of its new Metro Express route in July. Additionally, its Environmental and Sustainability Management System efforts have resulted in reduced idling times for stand-by and layover buses (producing fewer airborne pollutants) and increased electronic waste recycling efforts.
Some public transportation systems are sponsoring free rides, giveaways and drawings to thank riders:
• Albany, N.Y. – Capital District Transportation Authority will take part in a week-long of events to include distributing bike racks to 28 organizations and businesses who applied to the 2012 CDTA Region Bike Plan Program. CDTA Travel Trainers will be on hand to provide information on environmental public transportation initiatives.
• Bridgeport, Conn. – Greater Bridgeport Transit will allow city of Bridgeport employees to ride buses for free. Totebags and t-shirts will be handed out to riders as a “thank you.”
• Cincinnati, Ohio – Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority will be giving away a free green Metro umbrella to the first 500 people who purchase a Metro 30-day rolling pass as part of a partnership with a regional sustainability initiative.
• Cleveland, Ohiuo – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will provide free bus service on Sunday, April 22 to the EarthFest celebration at the Metroparks Zoo.
• Dayton, Ohio - Greater Dayton RTA will have a RTA prize wheel with giveaways including weekly bus passes.
• Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Broward County Transit will celebrate Earth Day with a special event promoting the use of public transportation and event goers will have an opportunity to receive a VIP BCT all-day bus pass when they sign-up to take the pledge to ride transit on Dump the Pump day in June.
• Lewisville, Texas - Denton County Transportation Authority will be offering free rides on April 21 to passengers who use the secret code promoted through social media.
• Nashville, Tenn. – The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority & Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee will provide free rides to the MTA Music City Circuit to the Nashville Farmer’s Market and riders will enjoy free giveaways, music, and special guests. Also, the Nashville Civic Design Center will sponsor a ride on the RTA Music City Star Regional train to the Lebanon station to enjoy festivities.
• Oxnard, Calif. – Gold Coast Transit participated in Earth Day festivities in two cities (Oxnard, Calif. and Ventura, Calif.) on April 14 with several activities at booths such as a “Spin the Wheel” game for a chance to win a free prize and a Gold Coast Transit mechanic (who is also a talented artist) served as face painter.
• Phoenix, Ariz. – Valley Metro RPTA will provide a family fun ride to the Chase Field to watch an Arizona Diamondbacks game. Prior to the game, a bike safety expo and bike rodeo will be held at the Chase Field Plaza.
• San Bernardino, Calif. – Omnitrans will have an online contest which asks people to share their “Ecomotive” for a chance to win and iPad, iPod, iTunes gift card or bus pass.
• Tampa, Fla. – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit is offering “Ride HART Free with a Friend.” Current customers have an opportunity to invite a friend who is new to transit, to board together to ride free.
Finally, numerous transit agencies are either sponsors of local Earth Day events or participating in an Earth Day event by offering information about transit and its benefits to the environment. Some additional agencies participating in Earth Day events include:
• Atlanta, Ga. – Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority will be participating with local colleges and universities in their campus Earth Day events and promoting a Commute Calculator at www.itsmarta.com.
• Baltimore, Md. - Maryland Transit Administration will be at the National Aquarium in Baltimore’s Eco Fair on April 21 and 22 handing out 4 x 9 cards detailing the advantages of riding public transportation and MTA’s various energy-saving efforts.
• Chicago, Ill, – Regional Transportation Authority’s Executive Director, Joseph Costello, and Board Chairman, John Gates, Jr., are participating in an Earth Day Transportation Summit.
• Cincinnati, Ohio – Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority will be celebrating Earth Month in the community by participating in events at the Christ Hospital, Xavier University and the Cincinnati Earth Day Celebration.
• Columbus, Ohio - Central Ohio Transit Authority is the transportation sponsor of this year’s Earth Day in central Ohio and will have its bike rack at the event. Also, COTA is participating in Earth Day events at local businesses.
• Corpus Christi, Texas – Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority will participate in the annual Earth Day Bay Day event held at Heritage Park which will host an art contest for local students to have their artwork featured on RTA bus benches.
The RTA will also be raffling off four bicycles during Earth Day Bay Day and have a bus display on-site.
• Dayton, Ohio - Greater Dayton RTA will kick off their Dump the Pump VidWheel Customer Video with a one-hour event at Wright Stop Plaza Transit Center (downtown) featuring a sign-up for e-alerts about the video contest on April 26. The first 100 to sign up will receive a small starter plant in honor of Earth Day. Plant will be branded: “Grow with RTA: Celebrate Earth Day.” There will be RTA How-to-Ride materials as well as Earth Day green suggestion materials available at event.
• El Paso, Texas – Sun Metro is participating in the citywide Earth Day celebration on April 20. Sun Metro’s participation will feature a “touch-the-bus” display and informational table about the system’s 100 percent CNG fleet.
• Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Broward County Transit will celebrate Earth Day with a special event promoting the use of public transit as an alternate and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. BCT has invited other environmentally focused organizations to participate. Also BCT will be promoting Green Fridays, an initiative that encourages commuters to use transit once a week on Friday through Labor Day.
• Greensboro, N.C. - Greensboro Transit Authority is participating in Earth Day activities sponsored by the City of Greensboro and also an Earth Day event at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
• Indianapolis, Ind. – IndyGo is participating in the annual Earth Day Indiana event on April 28 and partnering with Allison Transmissions at this event.
• Lansing, Mich. - Capital Area Transportation Authority is presenting to a group of local area’s U.S. Green Building Council on sustainable transportation options and attending a children’s Earth Day fair sponsored by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
• Lewisville, Texas - Denton County Transportation Authority will promote regional public transportation options by participating in the University of North Texas Earth Fest 2012 Sustainable Transportation Fair and the American Airlines Center Employee Earth Day celebration.
• Oakland, Calif. – San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District will launch the Blue Sky campaign from April 2 extending through Earth Day on April 22, and continue into May, that communicates BART’s environmental aspects. The Blue Sky initiative will include a festival on Thursday, April 19 with exhibits from dozens of Bay Area environmental organizations.
• Olympia, Wash. - Intercity Transit is hosting 29 separate events in April and May. The events include Earth Day activity, a Sustainability Summit, activity related to Thurston County’s popular Bicycle Commuter Contest, an Alternative Fuel Fair, commuter transit fairs, K-12 school programs and an Undriving Fair during the Olympia Arts Walk Festival.
• Orlando, Fla. - LYNX will provide fuel economy information, display a 40 foot bio-diesel painted bus, and handout a coloring sheet for kids at the upcoming Casselberry, FL Earth Fest event on April 28.
• Philadelphia, Pa. – SEPTA will host a Clean Air Council 5K Run for Clean Air and an Earth Day Celebration. SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey is the official race starter (will fire gun to signal start of the race).
• Santa Barbara, Calif. - Santa Barbara MTD will be at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival, with both a hybrid bio-diesel bus and an all-electric shuttle. Santa Barbara MTD vehicles will also be in the Green Car Show for the 42nd SB Earth Day Festival.
• Santa Monica, Calif. – Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus will be partnering with the local community college to transport beach clean-up participants between campus and the shoreline. Staff will also be tabling and speaking at an Earth Day celebration on campus.
• State College, Pa. - Centre Area Transportation Authority will be participating in an Earth Day event held on the Penn State Campus through the Office of Sustainability. CATA will host a table alongside the University’s Department of Transportation and will promote its bus and rideshare programs.