The public transportation industry is an industry committed to using environmentally-friendly technologies and practices. Every year, 37 million metric tons of carbon emissions and 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline are saved due to public transportation use in the United States.
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has a Sustainability Commitment program for both public transit agencies and businesses. Currently, 133 public transit organizataions voluntarily participate in the APTA Sustainability Commitment program, which started in 2009. Participating organizations are commited to implementing processes and taking actions that create continuous improvements in environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Depending on the level of accomplishments, organizations are presented Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Level certifications.
“APTA’s Sustainability Commitment program demonstrates that the public transportation industry is a green industry incorporating green, sustainable practices,” said Valarie J. McCall, APTA Chair and board member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. “These sustainable practices not only reduce an organization’s environmental impact, but are good for business, too.”
Noting public transportant is an industry that impacts local communities and their quality of life, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said, “Environmentally-friendly technologies are increasingly being implemented at public transit systems and businesses. One striking example of how public transit is leading the way is that almost half of all U.S. transit buses use alternative fuels or hybrid technology. However, the focus on sustainable practices extends beyond environmentally-friendly buses and includes other practices such as LEED certified buildings, solar arrays, and water reclamation.”
APTA’s latest research shows that 46.9 percent of U.S. public transportation buses were using alternative fuels or hybrid technology as of January 1, 2015. This is in striking contrast to the 2.5 percent of automobiles using alternative-fuels in 2014 (the most recent year that data is available). If you add in flex-fuel automobiles, the percent for automobiles is 4.8 percent, according to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Outlook.
APTA statistics for 2015 show that 22.3 percent of U.S. public transit buses report using compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and blends. Hybrid buses comprise 16.7 percent of U.S. transit buses, while biodiesel public transit buses account for 7.4 percent. Other alternative fuels, such as propane and hydrogen, account for 0.3 percent.
Listed below are examples of the diversity of bus fleets across the country in small, mid-sized, and large systems. This list, which also includes other environmentally-friendly technologies and practices, is a sampling of what is happening at public transit systems across the country.
• Albany, NY – The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) operates 77 hybrid-electric buses across its four county service area. More than 20 percent of CDTA’s regular route fleet is comprised of hybrid vehicles. As part of its fleet maintenance plan, at least 20 percent of new bus purchases will be hybrids. CDTA will operate these hybrid vehicles for 12-15 years.
• Ann Arbor, MI – Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) has the largest-known proportion of hybrid-electric bus fleet in the nation (55 of its fleet of 92 buses, or 59.8%).
• Cleveland, OH – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) has 21 hybrid-electric Bus Rapid Transit vehicles, of the 24 BRT buses in service, on its HealthLine which serves 5 million riders annually.
• Cincinnati, OH – Cincinnati Metro operates 27 hybrids and 115 "mini-hybrid" buses. The "mini-hybrid" buses use thermal cooling technology to provide improved fuel economy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
• Denver, CO – The Regional Transportation District (RTD) operates a fleet of 36 ultra-low emission hybrid-electric vehicles. These four-door vehicles carry up to 115 passengers. The vehicles operate on the Free MallRide, a free shuttle bus service along downtown Denver’s 16th Street Mall, a 1.42 mile-long transit and pedestrian mall.
• Eugene, OR - Lane Transit District’s (LTD) fleet of 110 buses is comprised of 50 percent hybrid-electric buses. This summer, LTD will add five hybrid-electric buses to its fleet.
• Fort Lauderdale, FL – Broward County Transit (BCT) has 86 hybrid buses. BCT’s hybrid fleet is comprised of both 40-foot, 42-foot and articulated buses, all of which feature a mini-hybrid thermal system that operates on diesel fuel and electricity. BCT began purchasing hybrid buses in 2008.
• Fort Wayne, IN – Fort Wayne Citilink just received its 19th hybrid-electric bus, bringing the fixed route fleet to over 50 percent hybrid.
• Indianapolis, IN – Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (IndyGo) operates 15 hybrid diesel electric buses, making its fleet 9 percent diesel-electric and 13 percent all electric.
• Lansing, MI – The Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) strives to reduce its carbon footprint by operating 53 hybrid buses throughout Ingham County and parts of Eaton and Clinton counties, which represent 55 percent of the fixed-route fleet.
• Milwaukee, WI - Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS)'s route supervisors operate a fleet of eight hybrid vehicles which conserve fuel and release virtually no emission while operating off the battery.
• Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN – Metro Transit’s fleet includes 134 hybrid-electric buses that have lower emissions and better fuel economy than standard diesel buses. Improvements in bus design and maintenance have also led to improvements in fuel conservation fleetwide. In 2015, the fleet’s average fuel economy was 4.71 miles per gallon, up from 3.8 miles per gallon in 2008. When temperatures and market prices allow, Metro Transit uses higher biodiesel blended fuels that produce fewer harmful emissions. In 2015, Metro Transit invited several bus manufacturers to demonstrate fully-electric buses in service. Metro Transit continues to study the feasibility of adopting electric bus technology.
• Orange County, CA – Orange County Transportation Authority’s (OCTA) uses 26 hybrid-electric administrative support vehicles.
• St. Petersburg, FL – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) introduced 10 hybrid-electric buses to its fleet in 2009. Today, PSTA operates 61 hybrid-electric buses, nearly 30 percent of PSTA’s fleet. PSTA continues to progress with bus technology and by the end of 2016 will have 7 new series hybrid-electric buses and expects to see significant improvement in fuel efficiency.
• San Jose, CA – Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has a fleet of 490 buses and just under half are diesel-hybrid buses. VTA expects to add 44 more diesel-hybrid buses by the fall of 2016, bringing the number to 236.
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) Buses
• Arlington Heights, IL – Pace recently opened its first CNG fueling facility at the South Division garage facility in Markham, IL. Pace will deploy its first 20 CNG-powered buses this summer following the completion of additional garage retrofits to support CNG operations. Annual fuel savings are estimated to be up to $1 million per year versus diesel operations once the garage’s fleet is fully transitioned to CNG buses. Pace plans to retrofit or reconstruct the agency’s eight other regional garages to operate CNG vehicles in the future.
• Cleveland, OH – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) continued to successfully pair economic with environmental considerations when it began incorporating alternatively fueled vehicles in its bus replacement program. Ninety new CNG buses are now in the fleet, with a total of 240 on order. Natural gas costs 1/3 that of diesel, resulting in savings of more than $200,000 for the life of each bus. GCRTA’s fleet of CNG buses will emit 30 percent fewer greenhouse gases by 2017.
• Dallas, TX – Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is nearing completion of its bus fleet conversion from diesel and liquefied natural gas to CNG. The city bus fleet transition was completed in early 2015 and an order to replace 46 express buses and 17 for service expansion has been placed with New Flyer. Those buses will begin service in 2016.
• Fort Worth, TX – Fort Worth Transportation Authority (FWTA) is one of the first U.S. public transit agencies to convert to CNG buses, beginning in 1989. FWTA continues to operate a 100 percent CNG fleet that numbers 177 buses, mobility impaired services vans and rubber-tired trolleys. Also, FWTA has upgraded its natural gas compression stations with more efficient equipment.
• Orange County, CA – Ninety-seven percent of the Orange County Transportation Authority’s (OCTA) 545 fixed-route buses use alternative fuels, with a majority operating on CNG. OCTA is in the process of repowering 201of these buses with engines that are 9 times cleaner. OCTA also utilizes 60 CNG-powered coach operator support vehicles.
• Orlando, FL – Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) started using CNG on all news buses as of April 15, 2016. This is due to the nation’s largest CNG public, private, partnership between Miami based Nopetro and LYNX.
• Santa Monica, California – The City of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (BBB) became one of the country's first municipal transit authorities in 2015 to convert its 200 vehicle fleet to renewable natural gas (RNG).
• Tampa, FL – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority’s (HART) compressed natural gas buses have helped HART to reduce the carbon emissions of its fleet vehicles by 16 percent since 2013, despite increasing services by approximately six percent during the same time period. That success can be attributed to a groundbreaking transition from diesel and unleaded gasoline fuels to CNG. In 2014, HART converted its fleet to CNG, 20 of the 48 HARTPlus vans are fueled by CNG, all 8 HARTFlex vans, 6 are MV-1's that are CNG powered, and 22 CNG buses are on the road with 13 additional CNG buses arriving this summer.
• Thousand Palms, CA – SunLine was the first transit public transit agency to convert its entire fleet to low emissions CNG.
All Electric Buses
• Eugene, OR - Lane Transit District’s (LTD) fleet of 110 buses will have five all electric buses added to its fleet this summer.
• Indianapolis, IN – Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (IndyGo) has 21 battery electric buses which is currently the largest fleet in the country. IndyGo has already saved nearly 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which is enough fuel to fill 7 tanker trucks. IndyGo also received federal funding to build Phase 1 of the Red Line Bus Rapid Transit Project which will have 13 battery-powered all electric buses.
• Nashville, TN – Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority currently runs nine all electric Proterra buses along the Music City Circuit, two routes that run throughout downtown Nashville.
• Salt Lake City, UT – The Utah Transit Authority has received a “low or no” vehicle emission grant from the Federal Transit Administration toward the purchase of five battery-electric zero-emission buses. The fleet will support service from downtown to the University of Utah, its partner in securing the grant.
• San Jose, CA – Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) expects to add fully electric buses to its fleet this summer.
• Seattle, WA – King County Metro Transit began testing a zero-emission Proterra battery electric bus and a fast-charge station in 2015. Three buses were placed into revenue service in February and Metro has just been awarded an FTA grant to help fund eight additional battery electric buses and three charging stations. These electric buses are designed to operate up to 23 miles between charges and get the equivalent of 15 miles per gallon more than a regular diesel coach.
Biodiesel and Propane Buses
• Cleveland, OH – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) is testing the effectiveness of propane-fueled vehicles in its paratransit fleet. The 20 vehicles included in this test (about 20% of the fleet) are expected to both save money and reduce pollutants.
• Lansing, MI – The Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) operates four 25-foot propane buses (8% of the agencies small-bus fleet).
• Wilmington, DE – Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC) has been successfully running a propane pilot program on five of its paratransit buses. Performance has been positive, as the agency is realizing cost savings and reduced GHG emissions. Following the pilot program, DTC began additional purchases of propane buses with 50 in FY16, and will purchase 55 in FY17 and 20 in FY18, bringing the total number of propane vehicles in the fleet to 130 by the end of FY18.
Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel
• Milwaukee, WI - Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) runs a fleet of nearly all clean diesel buses which emit 80 percent less particulate matter, 95 percent less oxides of nitrogen and 88 percent less non-methane hydrocarbons than older diesel buses.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Buses
• Orange County, CA – Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has partnered with the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) to operate a hydrogen fuel cell electric bus in place of an existing OCTA bus for a two-year demonstration period. The bus is a zero-emission vehicle and does not produce any smog-forming nitrogen oxides, particulates or carbon dioxide.
• Thousand Palms, CA – SunLine has had eight generations of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, with nine more fuel cell buses to arrive. It also operates a hydrogen generating and dispensing fueling station.
• Cleveland, OH – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) uses all-electric trains on its heavy-rail Red Line, as well as its light-rail Blue/Green Line, across 35 miles of track, serving nearly 10 million riders each year.
• Philadelphia, PA – Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) a heavy rail rapid transit system, utilizes an 120 all-electric rail car fleet. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the 14.2 mile line serves more than 36,000 weekday riders.
• Phoenix, AZ – Valley Metro recycled 33,250 pounds of electrical materials during construction of its three mile Northwest light rail extension.
LEED Status Buildings
• Denver, CO – The Regional Transportation District (RTD) continues to seek opportunities to minimize its carbon footprint. One example is the LEED gold certification for the RTD Union Station bus concourse that opened in 2015. The building is 30 percent more energy-efficient than a building of comparable size. Some green features of the building include, natural light from skylights, a green cleaning policy, low-flow public restroom appliances, resulting in a 35 percent water-use reduction and 150,000 gallon potable water saving a year, and a state-of-the-art ventilation and air monitoring system that increases ventilation by 30 percent.
• Indianapolis, IN – Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (IndyGo) is currently building its first transit center which will feature storm water management and curbside rain gardens as well as energy efficient lighting and HVAC. The Downtown Transit Center will be a minimum of LEED Silver Certification and open this June.
• Pompano Beach, FL - The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail) is expecting to open its new LEED certified Tri-Rail station in June. Key components of the station will be solar panels, which provide 110 percent of the power needed for operations, landscaping with native vegetation, car-charging stations and energy efficient elevators. The station is anticipated to be the prototype for future new Tri-Rail stations. The station is located in Pompano Beach, FL.
• Thousand Palms, CA – SunLine opened a 25,000 square-foot Administration Building and Transit Hub on January 28, 2015, which was awarded LEED silver.
• Eugene, OR - Lane Transit District (LTD) became one of 13 transit agencies in the country, and the only in Oregon to achieve International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) 14001 Standard in late 2015. The Standard recognizes LTD’s robust Environmental and Sustainability Management System (ESMS) which commits to prevent pollution, follow all legal and other requirements and continuously improve its efforts. LTD began developing an ESMS in 2013, when it was accepted to the Federal Transit Administration’s ESMS Academy. To date, LTD has successfully implemented a program to safely dispose of aerosol cans, prevent fuel spills, and reduce water use by changing its bus washing procedures, saving more than 500,000 gallons of water in 2015.
• Tampa, FL – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) is currently ISO 14001:2004 EMS (Environmental Management System) compliant but the agency is going through the process of becoming ISO 14001 certified at its main maintenance facility. After a series of audits, HART anticipates obtaining certification in mid-May. What does this mean? HART is focused on environmental initiatives, such as emissions reduction, reduce electricity and water consumption levels and waste diversion, while determining and reducing the agency's carbon footprint. These steps are certain to improve the environment for the community it serves, while providing long-term economic benefits to HART.
• Albany, NY – The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) installed a 50kw solar panel system at its headquarters in 2012, designed to high standards of sustainability. The 220 solar panels feed power back to the building helping to lower its energy bills. The roof has been designated as a RoofPoint Registered Project which demonstrates roofing excellence in several key categories, including energy, materials, water, life-cycle and durability management. The authority also uses solar power to illuminate some of its bus shelters as well as its park and ride signs to help mitigate energy costs.
• Indianapolis, IN – Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (IndyGo) has installed a 1 Megawatt solar panel system, consisting of 4,300 panels on the roof its headquarters. The energy created by the solar panels will power IndyGo’s electric buses. Funding for the solar panels came from a $3 million Federal State of Good Repair Grant.
• Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN – Metro Transit has installed 40kw solar arrays at two of its facilities – a light-rail support facility in Minneapolis and a 1,000-space suburban Park & Ride that also includes LED lighting, electric-vehicle charging stations and a geothermal heating and cooling system. In addition, solar panels are used to power lights at 30 bus waiting shelters. Metro Transit is also supporting clean energy by subscribing to privately-developed Community Solar Gardens.
• Phoenix, AZ – Valley Metro marks one year since opening a solar plant at the light rail operations and maintenance facility in Phoenix. The solar plant, which is comprised of 2,800 solar voltaic panels mounted at ground-level and on parking lot shade canopies, has saved 765 tons of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the air.
• St. Petersburg, FL – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) went solar in 2012 with the introduction of solar-powered trash compactors, shelters and lights. To date, PSTA has 51 solar trash cans which not only reduce long-term maintenance costs, but has also cut the number of trash cans needed at a bus stop in half. PSTA has also illuminated 90 bus shelters and 16 bus stops with solar-powered lighting.
• Thousand Palms, CA – SunLine’s solar panel system is expected to provide 33 percent of the agency’s power.
• Albany, NY – The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) reduces water consumption, saving tens of thousands of gallons of portable water each year, through a reclamation system installed at bus washers in each of its three bus divisions. The system captures the majority of the water that is used to wash buses, reclaims it, filters the dirt and uses it for the next bus.
• Orange County, CA – Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has cut its water usage by 21 percent by washing buses less frequently, installing drought-resistant landscaping and installing low-flow faucets and toilets at all its bus bases and transit centers.
• Lewisville, TX – Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) has embarked on a $419,000 landscaping project to improve its sustainability efforts at all of its five A-train rail stations. The agency has installed a new irrigation maintenance system that will conserve and use less water due to the use the insertion of new tree rings, irrigation bubbles and enhanced weather station with irrigation clocks. DCTA replaced old plants with new sun-friendly, drought-tolerant plants (Cedar Elm trees, Mexican feather grass, and goldmound spirea flowers) that will use less water and help with plant maintenance throughout the year. In addition, DCTA did extensive mulching that will allow the agency to conserve water and help with erosion control that will decrease runoff to nearby storm sewers and creeks. The project is slated to be complete at the end of the spring season.
• St. Petersburg, FL – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) uses low-flow irrigation systems and reclaimed water when washing any of the 207 buses in the fleet. In addition, PSTA’s state-of-the-art bus washing facility recycles and filters the used water to protect the groundwater supply.
• San Carlos, CA - SamTrans conserves water by streamlining exterior bus wash schedules and recycling water in its bus washers, minimizing landscape irrigation, installing high-efficiency faucet aerators at administrative offices, and posting signage in restrooms to educate employees and the public about water conservation. In June-December 2015, the agency reduced its water consumption by 53 percent compared to 2013, saving nearly 4 million gallons of water.
• San Carlos, CA - Caltrain practices water-wise landscaping techniques at stations, including covering plant beds with mulch to reduce evaporation and using “smart” irrigation controllers that adjust watering schedules based on local temperature and rainfall. Caltrain’s train wash system also internally recycles the majority of water used. The agency reduced its water use by 35 percent in June-December 2015 compared to 2013, conserving over 4.5 million gallons of water.
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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada ride APTA member systems.