Bikes and walking + transit = lower greenhouse gas emissions

FirstLastMile

I thought that posting the above chart would be a nice way to begin Bike Week. As the chart neatly shows, taking transit can be an effective way to reduce greenhouse gases — especially those who bike or walk to and from light rail stations. It makes sense: no fossil fuels are needed to power your legs.

The chart is from Metro’s  First Mile/Last Mile Strategic Plan that was adopted by the Metro Board of Directors in April.

Greenhouse gases, of course, are the primary agents for climate change. As the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases from the burning of fossil fuels increases in our atmosphere, the planet is growing warmer. Here’s a good explanation of the basics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The reduction of important topic given how much climate change has been in the news lately. The White House released a report last week on the ongoing impacts in the United States from climate change, including warmer temperatures, increased rains and flooding in some areas, drought in others and more intense wildfires and tree die-offs due to insects. The report followed one by the United Nations released in March that found the same phenomenon on a global level.

The state of California, too, agrees there are impacts and we’re already seeing them:

2013infographic

There are some important caveats when it comes to figuring out greenhouse gas emissions from transit. One involves how a project is built. It helps to have a green construction policy to help curtail pollution from trucks and other heavy equipment (and Metro does have such a policy). Even more important: the number of people riding a train or bus. The more people riding, the more efficient buses and trains are. (See this Duke University study comparing passenger per mile emissions from a bus getting 2.33 mpg versus a car that gets 25 mpg).

Metro’s numbers are based on a study looking at the Gold Line and Orange Line published in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters in 2013 by researchers from UCLA, Arizona State University and UC Berkeley. The Federal Transit Administration in 2010 also published a useful guide to comparing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and public transit. The FTA’s work shows that heavy rail transit (typically subways such as Metro’s Red/Purple Line that use bigger, heavier trains) are even more efficient than buses and light rail, due in part to heavier ridership.

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Transportation headlines, Day of Earth, April 22

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Happy Earth Day! Photo: NASA.gov.

Linking the Los Angeles airport (New York Times)

The NYT takes a look at Metro’s Airport Metro Connector project, which seeks to connect the LAX terminals to Metro Rail via a people mover or light rail. The featured photo shows the junction where a Green Line spur was supposed to turn north toward the airport — a spur, as you know, that was never built.

Excerpt:

But just how the connection is made is where the politics lie.

There are two options drawing the most consideration. One is an underground rail line that would offer more direct access to the airport, at a cost of about $2 billion more, but it would do little to ease airport congestion. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, board has placed the proposal on the back burner.

The other option, backed by Mayor Garcetti, is centered on what Mr. Bonin, the councilman, describes as building a new front door to the airport, about a mile and a half away. Ideally, it would be not only a transit hub, but also a place where cars could be parked and luggage checked before passengers took an automated people mover that circulated through the nine terminals.

“The people mover scenario makes the most sense,” said Juan Matute, the associate director of U.C.L.A.’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “There’s a lot of land available to build a world-class arrival center. Then from there, running a people mover will allow a higher capacity of people to enter the airport.”

The article concludes with a note of skepticism anything will happen. I’m not so sure — in my time here it seems there is currently more interest than ever in getting something done and certainly having the Crenshaw/LAX Line under construction is part of that. The big unanswered question, as with most projects, involves funding, namely will there be funds available to build some of the more expensive options.

Riding transit is the best way to celebrate Earth Day (Huffington Post)

The president of a transit workers union — in partnership with the Sierra Club, btw — offers a collection of statistics demonstrating that transit is more sustainable than driving alone. Obviously he has skin in the game, but federal and academic studies back him up. Here’s a page from a 2010 Federal Transit Administration report:

PublicTransportationsRoleInRespondingToClimateChange2010

Here’s how the media is getting the whole cities & millennials story wrong (Grist)  

Bed Adler writes that the New York Times and other similar media are over-stating the migration of millennials back to cities from the ‘burbs — and the media is under-stating the reason why young sprouts are coming back to cities. It’s not entirely for art and culture, says Grist. It’s for ease of transportation that cities provide.

Interesting issue and I tend to agree with Ben. I’m writing this today from Cincinnati, Ohio (family business), where gentrification of downtown’s Over the Rhine area is underway, including a new streetcar line that is under construction. I grew up here and the number of old buildings that have been rehabbed is very noticeable and it’s hard not to interpret the gentrification as a direct response to the relentless march of sprawl and suburbs to the north. Cincinnati and Dayton were once two distinct metro areas. No more as their ‘burbs have merged.

Of course, many of us equate the ‘burbs with driving and cities with other transportation choices. But it’s not quite that easy. Almost all of the rehabbed buildings of Over the Rhine included parking and those lots were filled with some pretty pricey vehicles, Range Rovers included. I suppose the counter-argument is that city life probably reduces the need for all vehicles — including the fuel hogs — to be used.

Gentrification in Cincinnati includes parking. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Gentrification in downtown Cincinnati includes parking. Photo by Steve Hymon.

 

Everyday is Earth Day when it comes to Metro’s sustainability efforts

We know that taking public transportation is a great way to go green. But what you may not know is that Metro has a number of initiatives in the works that will make the agency even greener…which will make it easier for you to be green.

Metro’s current transit network and infrastructure requires approximately $70 million per year in energy costs to keep everything running. This includes electric and natural gas energy for facility operations and fuel. Energy needs will exponentially increase over the next few years as the system expands and costs are anticipated to increase to about $120 million per year once Expo Phase II, the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension open.

Red/Purple Line Westlake-McArthur Park Station WESS.

Red/Purple Line Westlake-McArthur Park Station WESS.

To reduce the fiscal impact of these expansions on the overall energy demand, Metro has been actively looking at ways to be more energy efficient. On the renewable energy front, Metro is currently developing flywheel technology energy projects at the Red/Purple Line Westlake-McArthur Park Station and near the Gold Line Avenue 61 location. The flywheel energy storage system is able to capture energy regenerated by trains as they brake into a station. Metro is also increasing solar panel installations to include the new bus Division 13, which is scheduled for completion in 2015. Collectively, these projects will contribute to the agency’s goal of 33 percent renewable energy use by 2020.

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Metro explores new green energy options: placing a wind turbine in a subway tunnel

Photos: Evan Rosenberg/Metro

You’re standing on a subway station platform, waiting for the train. Suddenly, the wind picks up. You know this means the train is coming. Many of you may also know why there’s wind: it’s displaced air being pushed through the tunnel by the fast moving train. And some of you — including Tom Kefalas, Metro Environmental Compliance and Services Manager — may have wondered if there was a way all that generated wind could be utilized as a renewable energy source.

Thanks to Tom Kefalas and Cris Liban, Director of Metro Environmental Compliance Services, we now know the answer is yes. From August through September 2013, Metro conducted a one-month pilot program to see if wind energy could safely and effectively be captured and used. The project involved working with engineers from WWT Tunnel, LLC, a subcontractor to Arcadis U.S., to create and install a unique 10-foot multi-blade mass airflow collection equipment (MACE) in the Red Line tunnel. To our knowledge, this is the first time a transit agency has tested the effect of having a wind turbine in a subway tunnel.

The MACE was installed between the North Hollywood and Universal City stations, a segment of the tunnel that sees trains reaching speeds of up to 70 mph. Each time a train left the station, the MACE fan blades would start spinning, thus capturing energy up to a minute before the train actually passed by. The blades would continue to spin up to 2 minutes after the train passed, and exceeded 1,070 revolutions per minute (RPM). The amount of electricity produced by these train initiated events was nearly double the amount that had originally been anticipated.

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Six Metro divisions recognized as International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001 certified facilities

Division 20 EMS Facility Core Team with Chief Operations Officer Debra Johnson and EMS Executive Sponsor K.N. Murthy. Photo: Josh Southwick/Metro.

Division 20 EMS Facility Core Team with Chief Operations Officer Debra Johnson and EMS Executive Sponsor K.N. Murthy. Photo: Josh Southwick/Metro.

Six Metro divisions were recently recognized as International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001 certified facilities for their exemplary efforts in developing and implementing Metro’s Environmental Management System (EMS) at their facilities. Over the last month, transportation and maintenance staff at Divisions 9, 10, 11, 20/Location 61, 21 and the Central Maintenance Facility each received their facility’s 14001 certificate.

Becoming ISO 14001 certified signifies a level of international excellence in the operations of a facility and its staff and management. EMS is a collection of best practices that assist the agency in reducing its environmental impact and safety risks as well as minimizing waste and costs. It also improves productivity and efficiency and empowers staff to formulate innovative solutions on critical issues.

Additional Metro divisions are scheduled to be folded into the program and become ISO 14001 certified in the coming months. Metro is considered a leader among the few other ISO 14001 certified transit agencies across the country and is the first to receive this recognition for a multi-site system.

Get even greener with Metro’s green tips

If you want to go green, go Metro. Riding public transportation is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint, but what about in other parts of your daily life?

Luckily, Metro can help you out there too. Check out this list of green tips – some you may have heard before, some might be brand new to you. These tips will help you lead a greener and healthier life, and you might also be able to save some money while you’re at it!

A few examples:

  • Check Your Tire Pressure: If the tires on your vehicle have less than the recommended air pressure, your gas mileage will suffer. You can improve your fuel efficiency by up to 3.3% by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure.
  • Eat Local: Check out farmers’ markets in your area. By buying local, you not only help support the local economy, but also reduce carbon emissions associated with food production as the amount of fossil fuels used to transport food is tremendous. Here’s a list of farmers’ markets that you can Metro to. Make sure to bring a reusable shopping bag!
  • Ride a Bike: Gas wasted during traffic congestion totals nearly 3 billion gallons per year in the U.S. For every 1 mile pedaled rather than driven, about 1 pound of CO2 is saved from entering the atmosphere. And you can combine bikes with transit as all Metro buses and trains allow bicycles.
  • Explore Transit Alternatives: Reduce your car’s carbon impact through diversification. If bus and rail just aren’t for you, there are more options, such as walking, bicycling and carpooling.

Curious about what Metro is doing to stay green and sustainable? Check out this previous post and Metro’s environmental compliance page.

Metro achieves Platinum level recognition from APTA

The American Public Transportation Association will be awarding Metro’s efforts in sustainability on July 29. Metro is the first public transportation agency in North America to receive Platinum level recognition.

Here’s the excerpt from APTA’s press release describing some of Metro’s achievements:

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro):

L.A. Metro was a founding signatory of the Sustainability Commitment program in 2009 and has since put in place a full-scale sustainability program that has significantly reduced its environmental footprint.  These gains led L.A. Metro to achieve Platinum-level recognition from APTA — the highest level achievable — for significant reductions in areas such as energy, water use, and waste.

In large part due to its conversion to a vehicle fleet powered 100 percent by clean fuels,  L.A. Metro has achieved a 38 percent reduction in criteria air pollutants per passenger mile traveled (PMT), a 15 percent reduction in fuel use per PMT, and a 9 percent reduction greenhouse gas emissions per PMT from 2008-2011. Solid waste has seen a 30 percent reduction and water usage an 8 percent reduction. LA Metro has been recognized for many notable projects, including its implementation of an ISO 14001: 2004 certified environmental management system, and a green construction policy to reduce air emission from construction equipment and related activities.

Metro’s sustainability program has saved more than $2 million per year and additional cost-savings are expected in the future.

Keep reading after the jump for a list of the other winners and the full press release from APTA.

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