The public transportation industry is showing its commitment 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 stations, the U.S. public transportation industry is serving as an example of how to incorporate green technologies into both new and existing systems to further reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and help our country reach energy independence.
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) offers a voluntary Sustainability Commitment program to encourage systems to place a priority on preserving the environment, being socially responsible, and maintaining economic viability, with an overall contribution to quality of life. APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy says, “Public transportation use not only helps reduce our carbon footprint, but it also helps people save money." Currently, public transportation in the United States saves 37 million metric tons of carbon emissions and 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline.
APTA cites a few of the green activities at public transportation systems that improve the environment:
- Atlanta—Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority has the largest solar canopy installation at a bus garage in Georgia—and second largest in the country. Solar panels generate enough electricity to offset a significant portion of the facility’s electricity consumption and have the same environmental benefit as planting more than 285 acres of trees a year.
- Baltimore—Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) installed more than 3,700 “thin film” solar panels on the roof of MTA’s Northwest Bus Division, which supply 18 percent of their electric needs and saving over $68,000 per year.
- Boston—Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) owns and operates one wind turbine and is building 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 and anticipates a cost savings of between $200,000 and $250,000 annually.
- Chicago—Pace Bus has purchased solar-powered advertising bus stop shelters, which provide nighttime illumination with no energy cost.
- Detroit—Detroit Transportation Corporation operates energy-efficient LED and metal halide lighting in several of its 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.
- Kansas City—Kansas City [Missouri] Area Transportation Authority’s BRT stations incorporate rain gardens, solar lighting, and pervious concrete.
- Louisville—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—Metro Transit has used Xcel Energy's Windsource® program to demonstrate that light rail can run on 100 percent wind power.
- Oakland—AC Transit has 12 hydrogen fuel cell buses and unveiled the latest generation of zero-emission fuel cell buses and a new hydrogen production and dispensing station, which will be the first large-scale publicly accessible station to support fuel cell cars to customers in the Bay Area.
- 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.
- Greensboro, NC—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.
A carbon savings calculator is available, and the Federal Transit Administration has launched an Earth Day website that provides additional information on the importance of public transportation to the environment.