Fiscal Responsibility Through Sustainability

Aug. 7, 2012
Forget the “saving the planet,” or the “reducing the carbon footprint.” To get people listening today it’s about “cutting costs” and “saving money.”

Forget the “saving the planet,” or the “reducing the carbon footprint.” To get people listening today it’s about “cutting costs” and “saving money.”

With transportation being a hot political button as of late and scrutiny over money spent on any infrastructure project, many of the attendees at the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) 2012 Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop were sharing how that message shift has helped them in generating community support.

The afternoon started with a luncheon with a keynote by Federal Transit Administration Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan. While there was a definite battle in getting authorization out of the gate, she stressed that this was a solid win for the transit industry as it reflected many of the Administration’s priorities.

McMillan went over some of the key points of MAP-21 and when it comes to “sustainability,” she said this takes away the concept of it being “a boutique niche,” because it’s something that can just be incorporated into all of the programs. “You have the tools,” she said to the audience. “Make the federal program work for you.”

Relating to the Olympics and the common image we see each day of the athlete with his or her country’s flag wrapped around their shoulders as they finish their race, she said he or she did not get there alone; it was the support of many that him or her there, from family, friends, communities, coaches. But, she said, it was the athlete that finally did the running, did the swimming, or jumped out of the blocks.

Regardless of the placement, she said every athlete’s a winner, as long as they get out of the blocks; doesn’t matter if they’re first, second, third. “You have the tools and there are new creative ways to use them being talked about here,” McMillan said. “Get out of the blocks.”

Down to the Numbers

During a session Green Design, Materials and Infrastructure, presenters were sharing specific numbers illustrating cost-savings, something that resonates with anyone. The chief environmental engineer, capital program management with MTA New York City Transit, Thomas Abdallah LEED AP, shared a lot of information on the latest accomplishments of New York City Transit.

Abdallah also talked about the Corona Subway Car Maintenance Shop, their first LEED-certified building. With some time passed since its completion, he was able to share information on what kind of results they’ve seen.

When it comes to energy cost-savings, half is from good lighting and good ventilation and the other have of comes from the heat exchange unit. He said they’ve been utilizing the heat exchange systems for about 20 years and it’s one of the major energy savers. The solar panels are actually the least of the energy savings, coming in at about 2 percent.

Something else they looked at was the effectiveness of a white roof as opposed to a dark roof. Two years ago with the hottest summer ever (until this year) they did a test between the Corona Subway Car Maintenance Shop (white roof) and the Grand Avenue Bus Depot (black roof.) On the hottest day, the temperatures on the bus depot were between 125 and 130 degrees. On the white roof, substantially lower. And more important was the inside temperature. The subway maintenance shop was 82 degrees inside while at grand avenue, it was 95 degrees and work had stopped.

In the region, an average industrial energy usage rate is about 554,300 BTU/square foot he shared. At the subway maintenance shop, they are at 320,601 BTU/square foot: more than 42 percent lower than the average.

“The green building is working,” Abdallah stated.

Another statistic he had to share was that since the new facility opened, the mean distance between failures is going up. “It’s the same trains being serviced at the shop and their mean distance between failure’s is actually growing.” He added, “That’s the one place where people want to work.”

Savings in Sustainability

There were more stats showing savings when RNL Design Associate Merlin Maley, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, was talking about two recent projects in Frisco, Colo., and South Bend, Ind. At Transpo in South Bend, they were replacing a facility that was originally an 1890s milking shed that had been updated over the years.

The new facility is the first multi-use transit building in the country to receive Platinum LEED certification. The 167,000-square-foot facility, with 125,000 of that being for bus storage. With a 38-foot high ceiling in the bus storage area, the heat rises so mitigating that with special large fans that circulate very slowly, the fans use low energy but help keep the space temperate.

There are a number of key features that Maley discussed that contribute to the energy savings of the new facility, including solar panels, geothermal energy, daylight sensing equipment and thermal bridging, which mitigates heat loss through exterior walls.

RNL Design did an infrared energy audit or the original facility and the new facility and attendees could see the difference between interior and exterior temperatures of the surfaces. Between March of last year and this year, the energy use went from $8,000 to $3,000, or $2.15 per year per square foot down to $1.78 per year per square foot.

Transit Made Convenient

During “Sustainable Planning, Policy and Community Development, Federal Transit Administration Transportation Program Specialist Darren Buck talked about the potential of transit with bikesharing. Bikesharing lets people avoid waits, deviations and service interruptions. And, Buck shared, it’s tremendously cost-effective.

Capital Bikeshare in Virginia and in D.C. have recovered all operating costs while Nice Ride Minneaplis and B-Cycle in Denver are approaching 100 percent.

While very few systems (worldwide) share branding with counterpart transit systems, it could really help for people to see public transit systems work as a network.

Another topic Buck addressed was ensuring equitable access to bikeshare programs, including a number of ways to close the gap, including security deposit assistance, installment payments and station siting.

An example he shared was the Montpellier, RF, along the Mediterranean coast. There are 50 stations operated by and co-branded with the transport authority. Free day use of the bikes is available for transit pass holders and there are a variety of options marketed to residents and tourists. Various leisure bikes are available for different needs, including cruisers and mountain bikes.