Metrolink unveils first climate action plan

April 1, 2021
The plan, Metrolink’s first formal environmentally focused initiative, addresses climate change, air quality and other pressing sustainability issues to help advance the regional railway’s goal for zero emissions by 2028.

Metrolink unveiled a new Climate Action Plan, charting a course toward a greener future for the agency.

The plan, Metrolink’s first formal environmentally focused initiative, addresses climate change, air quality and other pressing sustainability issues to help advance the regional railway’s goal for zero emissions by 2028.

While the plan sets a framework for improvements over the next decade, Metrolink is embarking on more immediate measures to reduce its carbon footprint. Currently, a pilot program is underway utilizing a single Tier 2 locomotive to test renewable plant-based diesel fuel—the latest, greenest alternative fuel on the market that is chemically similar to petroleum diesel, but 100 percent renewable and sustainable. Metrolink hopes to see a reduction in greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions during the pilot period. If the Tier 2 pilot proves successful, testing will begin on a single new Tier 4 locomotive. If all goes well with the Tier 4 locomotive, then Metrolink can transition its entire fleet to renewable diesel fuel.

“Metrolink’s Board of Directors is committed to meeting the mobility and public transportation needs of the region in the safest and cleanest way possible, creating a healthier region for our riders and future generations to come,” said Metrolink Board Chair and Glendale Councilmember Ara Najarian. “With this plan, we are addressing the urgency in our role in tackling the mounting – and emerging – environmental threats facing our planet.”

Stephanie Wiggins, CEO of Metrolink, added, “As the premiere passenger rail system in the state, we are investing in a sustainable future of our mega-region. We’re in the process of launching exciting pilot programs that could potentially put our entire fleet on a plant-based diet in the near future—and we’ll continue to explore emerging business solutions tied to measurable goals and targets outlined in the plan that strengthen our resiliency and contribute to a healthier tomorrow.”

Metrolink will build upon the foundational sustainable accomplishments the agency has achieved to date. Since 2018, Metrolink has replaced all its “dirty” Tier 0 trains and currently operates 39 Tier 4 trains that uphold the most rigorous air quality standard to date by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Final Tier 4 deployment is expected by spring 2021.

Also, over the past decade, Metrolink has done its part to reduce its footprint in the 250,000-square feet of maintenance yards, dispatch centers and administrative offices. Metrolink’s administrative and dispatching offices uphold stringent green standards for building energy and resource conservation. The agency has made significant strides forward with such sustainability efforts as storm drain upgrades, recycling and composting, and lighting system retrofitting. Last year, its Central Maintenance Facility was recognized by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) with its Sustainability Impact Award in Energy Management for Metrolink’s Maintenance Yard lighting upgrades, which resulted in a 32.45-percent reduction in annual energy consumption.

In recent years, Metrolink facilities have been certified with USGBC Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating designations, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement. In 2017, the agency’s Los Angeles Headquarters received a LEED Gold certification for sustainability and is equipped with thermal energy storage, backup generator pads and technology to optimize oxygen, light and acoustic levels. Meanwhile, Metrolink's Dispatch & Operations Center (DOC) building in Pomona is Silver LEED certified and equipped with highly efficient and cost-saving green design technology.

“Although our region has made tremendous progress in reducing air pollution, we still have the worst air pollution in the nation that compromises the health of our children and our quality of life,” said Metrolink Vice Chair and Highland Mayor Pro Tem Larry McCallon. “Our Climate Action Plan addresses this health problem with a zero-emissions blueprint that can serve as an example to our state and the world.”

Key initiatives for a zero-emission future

Metrolink is involved with several innovative initiatives helping to shape a greener future for the region. One of those is supporting the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) with the implementation of the Redlands Passenger Rail Project (Arrow)—a nine-mile connection from the University of Redlands to the San Bernardino-Downtown Station with five station stops along the way. Projected for completion in early 2022, Metrolink will operate and maintain the Arrow service using three highly fuel-efficient Tier 4 Diesel Multiple Units. SBCTA will also introduce a hydrogen fuel cell rail vehicle, which will be the first hydrogen-powered passenger train to run in the United States.

Another key program is Metrolink’s $10 billion capital improvement program, Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion (SCORE), a series of projects on, and improvements to, the 538-mile Metrolink system—scheduled to be completed in time for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2028. According to a study by the Los Angeles Economic Development Council (LAEDC), the five-county Southern California region will see many environmental benefits from SCORE, which is projected to eliminate 3.4 billion vehicle miles-traveled and reduce 51.7-million-metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) from 2023-2078.

“Our Climate Action Plan maps to industry standards and requirements at the state and federal level,” said Doug Chaffee, Orange County Board of Supervisors and Metrolink Board second vice chair. “We plan to actively seek ongoing funding to support our continued robust exploration into green solutions that lead us to a zero-emissions future.”

This past year, Metrolink has been working to build a stronger organization and community for the new post-pandemic environment.