Implementing sustainability plans not only allows transit authorities to demonstrate their commitment to being socially and environmentally responsible; adhering to these programs can also help agencies reap financial benefits. In other words, being green can save green — dollars, that is.
This is the third year of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) formal Sustainability Program and its pursuit of a "triple bottom-line" strategy: becoming environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Adopted by SEPTA’s board in 2011 and put into action in 2012, the agency’s Sustainability Program uses innovative strategies to capture wasted resources and put them back into productive use to add environmental, social and economic value. SEPTA’s recently released Sustainability Annual Report demonstrates how a variety of previously untapped assets are making a difference in the agency’s daily operations.
For example, by instituting a single-stream, source separated recycling program at all of its employee locations, passenger stations on the Broad Street, Market-Frankford and Trolley Lines and its downtown Philadelphia and Philadelphia International Airport Line Regional Rail Stations, SEPTA has projected an average cost reduction of 17% (more than $100,000) per year. Before recycling, the agency paid more than $800,000 per year for trash disposal services.
Under the new hauling contract, SEPTA’s projected cost of each ton of trash and recycling disposed is $107 and $2, respectively, due to lower transportation costs and rebates for the cardboard, paper, plastic, aluminum and glass. For this reason, the price of the new five-year hauling contract is almost the same as the previous three-year hauling contract.
Essentially, SEPTA received two years of complimentary hauling services by implementing its comprehensive program.
SEPTA captures, stores and reuses braking trains’ energy.
In addition to recycling tangible commodities like cardboard, paper and aluminum, SEPTA is also recycling energy created by braking trains. On the Broad Street (subway) Line, propulsion control boxes reduced energy consumption by more than 8 million kilowatt hours in 2011 — a savings of more than $700,000 per year at the agency’s current price for electricity.
On the Market-Frankford (subway-elevated) Line, increased voltage levels associated with regenerative braking, coupled with SEPTA’s wayside energy storage project, saved $250,000 in its first year. The two grant-funded wayside energy storage devices the agency is currently installing on the line could result in up to $440,000 in new economic value by capturing and reusing regenerated energy from braking trains. These initiatives will save SEPTA millions of dollars each year in ongoing operating costs.
With its buses, SEPTA is replacing the traditional mechanically-driven engine cooling function with an electronically-driven system to improve its fuel economy. Two pilot units had an 8% to 10% fuel saving.
With its buses, SEPTA is replacing the traditional mechanically-driven engine cooling function with an electronically-driven system to improve its fuel economy. Two pilot units had an 8% to 10% fuel savings (approximately $3,000 in annual fuel savings per bus at $3.00 per gallon).
All of the agency’s new buses will be equipped with electric engine cooling upon arrival and SEPTA is now seeking grant funding to retrofit its existing fleet vehicles.
As a result of its diligence, four of SEPTA’s 12 sustainability performance targets have already achieved the triple-bottom-line focuses. The program is not rigid — its progress is re-evaluated continually and adjustments are made to ensure further success. After two years, the Sustainability Program has demonstrated that opportunities still exist to advance projects that add value to SEPTA and its region.
With the current shortfall in federal, state and local funding, any time transit agencies can make their dollars stretch while demonstrating good citizenship is a bonus.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "'SEPTA beefs up its social assets" here.
There is an epidemic of safety accidents, absenteeism and high turnover among transit’s front line employees and it’s bleeding the transportation industry billions of dollars. But the inoculation may be closer than you think. Employee engagement is the best immunization for what’s ailing the industry.
Video surveillance technology is a vital component to transit and rail operations as agencies recognize the value such solutions offer. A comprehensive system does more than deliver high quality video and audio recordings. Supporting data and software tools increase the efficiency of agencies’ video management operations, substantiate liability claims and investigations, and promote safety for both passengers and operators alike.
In case you missed it, Pope Francis visited America — and was followed by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims during his stops in Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. It’s fitting, given Pope Francis’ penchant for public transportation, that transit played a key role in taking the masses to papal visit activities.
A transit authority’s website, contact center tools and social media are all critical touch points for customers as they engage with transit agencies. At this stage in the relationship, the focus should be on informing and educating prospective customers so they have the incentive to provide their demographic information (e.g. email address, cell phone number, social media contact, etc.).
Typically, when riding the rails in the Philadelphia region, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority customers can purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes — even onboard tickets — for their journeys. But the weekend of Sept. 26 to 27 will be far from a typical weekend in Philadelphia — Pope Francis will be in town, along with an estimated 1.5 to two million people attending public events along the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.