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.
While PTC may have just recently entered the consciousness of the public at-large, it has been an issue for freight and commuter rail systems since Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA) (P.L. 110-432) in 2008 following the collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train in Los Angeles. Since that time, rail organizations have been working toward meeting the federally-mandated PTC implementation deadline of December 31, 2015. With less than six months to go, several commuter rail systems have said that, not only will they not meet the deadline, they will need several more years before having full PTC implementation on their trains.
Disruptive technologies and the new era of information sharing are helping to evolve and advance public transportation in our nation’s greatest cities. Nearly 300 mayors and government officials convened in San Francisco June 19-22 for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 83rd Annual Meeting, featuring remarks from President Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. I was invited to speak in front of these influential government leaders to discuss “Technology and the Transformation of Urban Transportation.” This article will give readers an inside look at the conversation.
In times of disaster or tragedy, public transit agencies are frequently called upon to assist their communities and other transportation organizations. In case of fire, evacuation or accident, buses may be used to shelter or transport the displaced or injured, or serve as a respite site for first responders.
As a city, Leipzig is an excellent example of the German principals of transport planning and service as well as eastern Germany’s long history. The city has benefitted from large amounts of investment in infrastructure over the years since German reunification and most transport systems seem to be new or rebuilt, expanded and in a very good current state of repair. The most notable element in the transport mix is inevitably the enormous and historic main railway station, which is one of the largest, but certainly not busiest, in Europe.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.