Public transit has always been the green transportation alternative. How do you make it even more environmentally-friendly and efficient for the 21st Century? The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), in partnership with Viridity Energy Inc. — a Philadelphia smart grid company — is bringing the regenerative braking energy technology long used by hybrid-electric vehicles to its Market-Frankford Line elevated trains.
But where hybrid-electric buses and cars have onboard batteries to capture and store energy created when the vehicle brakes, trains don’t have a storage capability and the energy created during the regenerative braking process can only be used by a nearby accelerating train. And if there’s no train? That energy is lost, vanishing into the air.
SEPTA and Viridity have devised a way to capture, store and reuse braking “El” trains’ energy, building upon the idea of an on-board battery.
In a first-of-its kind “wayside energy storage” project, SEPTA and Viridity have devised a way to capture, store and reuse braking “El” trains’ energy, building upon the idea of an on-board battery. Instead of just one battery like that on a car or bus, SEPTA’s system is several large batteries (produced by Saft Batteries Inc.) and a controller (produced by ABB Envitech, Inc.) located offsite (“wayside”) at SEPTA’s Letterly Substation. The stored energy can later be used by SEPTA to meet a variety of energy needs on the portion of the Market-Frankford Line served by that substation, including powering additional trains.
Wayside energy storage is green for reasons other than being socially responsible by reducing the amount of energy SEPTA needs from the power grid. The project will be a money saver and revenue generator for SEPTA — an important outcome at a time when transportation organizations are being looked upon to develop innovative means of creating income.
Much like SEPTA’s hybrid buses reduce fuel consumption, the battery is projected to decrease the electric bills at Letterly Substation by up to $190,000 per year. Additionally, the excess energy captured and stored by the battery can provide support to the electric grid via the frequency regulation market. Through its partnership with Viridity, SEPTA will deploy its energy surplus as virtual power into PJM Interconnection’s wholesale power frequency regulation and energy markets. SEPTA anticipates that frequency regulation and other demand response programs could generate up to $250,000 annually in new revenue.
“Through this pilot project, SEPTA will become even more energy efficient, which will help control operating costs — benefiting both customers and taxpayers. We’ve made our system cleaner, greener and more efficient in recent years: things like replacing traditional diesel buses with diesel-electric hybrids and installing energy-efficient lighting at stations, facilities and offices,” said SEPTA GM Joseph Casey. “These measures are helping us control costs in tough economic conditions and making us a better neighbor in the communities we serve."
The Letterly Substation project, funded by a $900,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority, is just the first in SEPTA’s wayside energy storage initiative. The agency received a $1.44 million FTA grant to install another device at a substation in Northeast Philadelphia. That grant will also be used to test alternative battery technology and determine the best fit for SEPTA’s propulsion system. The results will be shared within the transportation industry, allowing other rail transit agencies to determine how they might be able to use the wayside storage technology in their systems.
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Read our METRO blog, "Finalizing bus stop placement" here.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.