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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Two ongoing projects impact late night Red and Purple Line service on weekdays — here’s the explanation and some pics

Photos: Metro

Over the last six months, late night Metro Red Line riders have likely noticed that on Sunday through Thursday nights, northbound and southbound trains have been sharing one track between Hollywood/Highland and North Hollywood.


Metro workers have been replacing all the lamps in the Red Line tunnels with new, brighter and longer-lasting high-efficiency LED lamps. These lamps use about half the energy of the existing fixtures and are expected to last about four times as long. The cost of the lighting project is about $9 million. 

That translates to lower electricity bills for Metro and lower costs since the agency won’t have to replace the lamps as often. There are about 8,000 tunnel light fixtures, meaning it’s a big energy savings and a serious reduction in the amount of waste produced by Metro. 

Metro workers are currently replacing fixtures in the Universal/Studio City area and gradually working back toward Union Station. Overall, the project will take three years to complete.

How does this affect your trip?

This is a long term project being performed on Sunday through Thursday nights and in conjunction with the Subway Tunnel Washing Project ongoing in downtown Los Angeles. This means there are two segments where Red Line trains share one track- in downtown and Hollywood to Universal City.

Due to limited track capacity, Red Line trains run every 20 minutes (instead of every 10 minutes) and the Purple Line only runs between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/Vermont. We try to minimize maintenance on Friday and Saturday nights, though other urgent work occasionally affects these nights. Customers with connections to other services should allow extra time and to check for planned service advisories at

Metro receives Galaxy Star award from Alliance to Save Energy

The Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) has recognized Metro with a Galaxy Star award for its comprehensive sustainability plan, which includes outstanding energy efficiency improvements in Metro’s fleet and buildings.

In 2011, Metro achieved its goal of a 100% alternatively fueled bus fleet, and its rail propulsion power efficiency used 1.93 kilowatt-hours of electricity per rail boarding in 2011 – a 15% increase in efficiency since 2005. Metro is exploring regenerative braking for rail cars, and a 1-megawatt Wayside Energy Storage Substation (WESS) is estimated to reduce energy consumption by 670,000 kilowatt-hours annually once it is operational. Air pollutant emissions have decreased by 37.6% per passenger mile traveled with across-the-board improvements in water usage, solid waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and recycling.

The 2013 Stars of Energy Efficiency awards ceremony will be held on October 2. Visit Metro’s website for more information on its sustainability plan. To read the full press release from ASE, continue after the jump.

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Metro receives Sustainability Commitment Platinum Recognition from APTA

Metro is receiving the Sustainability Commitment Platinum Recognition from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for its national leadership in environmental and sustainability initiatives. Metro is the first and only recipient of this recognition in the country.

Metro has achieved significant positive effects towards reducing the effects of extreme weather and changing climate conditions in the Los Angeles region through the reduction of energy and water use, reducing harmful air pollutant emissions and the use of less carbon intensive fuels in its rolling stock, according to APTA.


Caltrans details major efforts to fight climate change

Caltrans released a comprehensive report today detailing its efforts to fight climate change by curbing greenhouse gas emissions and embracing new technology such as low-energy cement and efficient LED lighting. The report also describes the department’s efforts to adapt to the negative effects of climate change, such as more frequent and intense flooding and heat waves.

For the rest of Caltrans’ press release and the link to the full report, keep reading after the jump.

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New York City’s transportation boss offers a few lessons on making the big changes actually happen

Janette Sadik-Khan at last night's event. Photo by Juan Matute/UCLA.

Janette Sadik-Khan at last night’s event talking about closing parts of Times Square to traffic in favor of pedestrian plazas. Photo by Juan Matute/UCLA.

I had the good fortune of attending a forum last night with Janette Sadik-Khan, the innovative Transportation Commissioner for New York City. She was the featured speaker at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs Complete Streets Initiative, an effort to make local streets more user-friendly for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists.

New York has taken a number of bold steps since Sadik-Khan began working for Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007: building new public plazas in places that were once streets (including parts of Times Square), creating new bus rapid transit lines with the New York MTA, adding 300 miles of bike lanes and implementing traffic calming measures to reduce fatalities and injuries caused by motor vehicles in New York City’s five boroughs. The New York MTA is also building a new subway line and extending another.

In other words, New York City made a lot of significant changes quickly, not letting distractors or controversy get in the way even when things didn’t break their way (such as a plan to implement congestion pricing in Manhattan). I think most of what she discussed is highly relevant here, given that some big changes are underway in L.A. County courtesy of Metro’s Measure R program along with many other local initiatives and projects that are either being discussed, studied or implemented across the county.

I few things I heard that I really liked:

•”Just remember the headlines don’t always translate into the opinions of actual people,” said Sadik-Khan. Couldn’t agree more. It’s difficult in some media reports to gauge the degree of opposition or support for a particular projects and many media outlets either don’t offer the context or disclosed they rely on the same people for years for quotes.

•”Safety and sustainability go hand in hand,” she said. “You won’t get more people walking or biking if they don’t feel safe.” Several cities in L.A. County are quickly putting in new bikes but I haven’t seen a lot of data about which are being used and which are not — and why not. For example, there are new bike lanes directly next to three lanes of freeway-like traffic on Huntington Boulevard in El Sereno. It’s great to have the lanes, but I have seen very few people actually using them and non-productive lanes could harm the overall program. 

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Metro lauded in federal "leaner and greener" report

Click above to download the report!

Each weekday, there are about 1.5 million boardings on Metro buses and trains across Los Angeles County. It takes a lot of energy to move all those people; fuel is needed for buses while electricity powers trains and Metro’s many facilities across Los Angeles County.

In the past few years, however, Metro has made serious inroads into making sustainability and the environment among the agency’s top concerns. Metro has managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, expand renewable energy it generates, assemble the largest clean fuel bus fleet in the nation and become the first transit agency in the U.S. to adopt a Green Construction Policy to reduce emissions from construction equipment.

It was for these reasons and others that received some welcome news in late November when a new report titled “Leaner and Greener” by the Federal Highway Administration and the American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials singled out Metro as the prime example of a transportation agency putting sustainability at the forefront.

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