A long-time champion of cleaner, greener technologies, the Riverside Transit Agency
(RTA) has provided public bus service to California’s Western Riverside County since 1977. RTA’s service area is among the nation’s largest, covering 2,500 square miles. The agency operates more than 160 buses on 36 fixed routes and eight commuter routes, 98 dial-a-ride vehicles, and 10 trollies. On an average workday, RTA buses provide more than 32,000 passenger rides, and during the last fiscal year, provided a record 9.5 million.
In 1988, long before today’s strict air quality regulations, RTA was among the first to pioneer the use of low-emission methanol buses. When the agency built its new headquarters in 1986, it installed a dedicated alternative fuel system for fueling these buses — a rare move when diesel was king. In 2001, RTA took a major step by converting its entire fleet of 94 diesel buses to compressed natural gas (CNG), despite the $50,000 price premium over diesel buses.
“RTA wanted to make a statement and strong commitment to cleaner air,” according to Brad Weaver, marketing manager for RTA. “Our use of CNG not only saves the environment, but it saves the agency nearly $2 million a year in fuel cost compared to diesel.”
Earlier this year, RTA replaced 97 older buses with new 42-foot CNG buses. The new buses, which carry up to 38 seated and 17 standing passengers, feature innovative technology, such as USB charging ports for mobile phones and tablets, security cameras, GPS systems and colored head signs. The buses are designed for quicker wheelchair fastening, reducing customer boarding and alighting times. Sixteen are CommuterLink Express buses, which provide free Wi-Fi. Passengers also enjoy more spacious interiors and more comfortable seats, which are easier to maintain and repair.
The benefits of RTA’s CNG efforts extend beyond the agency. One of its two CNG fueling stations is open to the public, which supports alternative fuel vehicle adoption in the area. The agency also serves as a regional champion of alternative fuels and is a regular participant in outreach events hosted by the Western Riverside County Clean Cities Coalition
. As a coalition stakeholder, RTA helps spread the word about the alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies available today.
For more than seven years, RTA has gone beyond reducing its own emissions. The agency has reduced the number of vehicles on the road by offering unlimited free rides to local college students. Its Go-Pass and U-Pass programs have been hugely successful and were renewed in 2013 with six partner schools: California Baptist University, La Sierra University, Moreno Valley College, Mt. San Jacinto College, Riverside City College, and University of California, Riverside. By participating, students save money and reduce campus traffic. During its first two years, RTA found that the program at the Riverside Community College District was responsible for preventing 7.4 tons of carbon dioxide, 1,379 pounds of reactive organic gas, 1,280 pounds of nitrous oxide and 468 pounds of particulate matter emissions.
RTA also operates a number of its support vehicles on CNG and plans to continue its commitment to clean fuels.
Rating systems have become the currency of sustainability. The right sustainability ratings system provides an important third-party verification of your agency’s commitment to creating facilities that reduce carbon emissions, save water, create healthier work environments for your employees and have a positive impact on the communities they serve.
Everyone needs to take a mental and physical break at some point in the workday, whether they’ve been concentrating on a computer screen, the road, or the underside of a bus, truck or train car. The tricky part for transit agencies is that each of these activities takes place in different surroundings, lighting conditions, room temperature and noise levels. With that in mind, consider the following factors in your facility design.
Shifts are long and varying, and facilities are often inadequate for transit employees to truly recharge and stay sharp on the job. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The quality of the environment within facilities can be designed to support shift workers and those with jobs that don’t follow traditional 9-to-5 schedules. Two key elements that can be utilized to support vehicle operator health; creating spaces with adaptability for varied activities and quality lighting that supports the adaptability of the space.
Most transit facilities have a break room for operators to use between shifts — typically an artificially lit space with a TV, vending machines, and cafeteria-style tables and chairs. The trouble is, every person has a different way of relaxing. Besides exposure to daylight and nature, key components of wellbeing are social cohesion and a sense of empowerment. The key here then is to empower employees to choose the best way to relieve their own stress around shifts.
A health and wellness revolution is underway in America. Concurrently, there is a growing public health initiative to promote safer, more accessible recreation facilities and active transit options. Transit agencies are uniquely positioned in the overlap of these two movements. By promoting health and well-being, agencies have an opportunity to show leadership and innovation in a truly holistic approach to total worker health, while benefiting workforce productivity and happiness.