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.
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.