Rethinking The Greening of Transit

Posted on April 2, 2009 by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

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[IMAGE]MET4green.jpg[/IMAGE]Sustainability does not only have an environmental impact, but it has economic and social impacts as well. “The sustainable aspect of the transportation industry impacts people in more ways than the physical environment of moving people from one point to another or constructing new facilities,” says Parsons Brinckerhoff’s Susannah Kerr Adler, VP; manager, architecture and buildings, Technical Excellence Center. 

She believes that there is increasing awareness on the issue and the various components that make up the “sustainability umbrella.”

Shifting focus

“Sustainability in general and green design development is not necessarily equal to sustainability,” says Kerr Adler. “It’s a component of sustainability.” When assessing the trends in the sustainability arena, Kerr Adler says that the focus has shifted away from pilot projects or programs to a more comprehensive approach. “Now, people are looking at a suite of activities to implement, not just the one-offs,” she adds.

Defining what sustainability means to the transit industry is also an important focus. Other sustainability trends she is seeing include transit agencies looking to reduce their environmental impact. Reducing an operation’s wastewater final discharge, for example, as well as taking advantage of day lighting are some practices being employed in projects. “A lot of this is just basic design or common sense,” Kerr Adler says. “But, sometimes you get caught up in designing or building something to fit a particular site; you kind of forget about the context.”

Climate change, carbon footprints and greenhouse gases are all topics of focus these days. The issue of climate change has been a major focus for the international community for a while, so assessing resources such as water, land or soil, are established practices, she says. “Because a lot of these regions are landlocked, there’s a heightened sensitivity to resources.” She expects the same focus to grow within the U.S. in the next five to 10 years.

India’s Delhi Metro system is an example of an effective sustainable project on the international front. To counter the dramatic rise of the city’s population from 0.6 million to 14 million people over the last few years, the first line of New Delhi’s Metro network opened in December 2002. Phase I consisted of three lines totaling 40 miles, with Phase II, now under construction, representing an additional 78 miles.

Operated by the Delhi Metro Rail Corp., Delhi Metro is the first rail system in the world to receive ISO 14001 certification. The project employed extensive noise and pollution abatement measures; relocating and replacing thousands of trees that were displaced for the alignment; and disposing soil from tunneling in ways that wouldn’t harm the environment.

On the U.S. side, Kerr Adler cites the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Corona Maintenance Facility for its innovative design and use of natural elements.

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