Two Washington State public transportation agencies—Intercity Transit in Olympia and Sound Transit in Seattle—recently became the first U.S. agencies to achieve Gold-level recognition for their efforts in support of the APTA Sustainability Commitment, of which both were founding signatories in 2009. They are the second and third APTA members to achieve this status, following TransLink of Vancouver, BC.
The APTA Sustainability Commitment is a voluntary agreement to place a priority on preserving the environment, being socially responsible, and maintaining economic viability, with an overall contribution to quality of life. APTA members who sign on commit to implementing core internal processes and actions that set the basis for continuous improvement on these key sustainability elements.
Signatories can obtain increasingly higher levels of recognition—Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum—by attaining reduction targets for a series of set indicators, performing additional actions, and putting long-term processes into place.
Intercity Transit’s efforts to integrate sustainability into its culture include forming a Sustainability Committee, creating a program to reduce auto-based commuting by staff, expanding recycling efforts, saving fuel by reducing engine idling, and replacing buses with cleaner-burning hybrid diesel-electric units. The agency powers its fleet entirely with a biodiesel (B20) fuel blend.
As a result, Intercity has seen a 4.8 percent reduction in total waste, a 5.5 percent decline in total water usage, and an 8 percent drop in energy usage per trip—all while increasing the number of unlinked passenger trips by 31.9 percent from 2006 to 2010.
Mike Harbour, general manager, explained: “Intercity Transit’s sustainability efforts reach across the entire agency and have involved every employee and board member. Sustainability, energy usage, and the impact of a project on the environment are now key elements of every decision made by our agency and are key considerations in the development of our annual budget.”
Sound Transit built on its previous Silver-level APTA Sustainability Commitment status, developing a long-term sustainability plan; adding hybrid buses to its fleet in 2010 and 2011; and incorporating sustainability criteria into its design guidelines and new contracts. From 2009 to 2010, per passenger trip the agency reduced criteria air pollutant emissions by approximately 15 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20 percent, and water usage by 62 percent. During this time, Sound Transit achieved a significant 10.7 percent reduction in energy use per trip while the total number of passenger trips expanded by 19 percent.
“Sustainability is a major priority in everything we do,” said Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Joni Earl. “It extends to more than offering fast and convenient services that take cars off the road. This recognition by APTA reflects other efforts that span everything from reducing emissions from our vehicles to incorporating sustainability into our project blueprints to using less paper around the office.”
All APTA members, from both the public and private sectors, are eligible to sign the APTA Sustainability Commitment. For more information, contact Kyle Bell, program manager-environment and infrastructure.