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.
In particular, the report lauded Metro for:
•Instituting a “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Management Plan.” The plan’s aim: measure the agency’s total emissions and find ways to lower the number. A prime example: the conversion of Metro’s entire bus fleet to vehicles powered by compressed natural gas, which produces fewer emissions and particulates than traditional diesel fuel. Metro retired its last diesel bus in Jan. 2011.
As for greenhouse gases, since 2007, has lowered its greenhouse gas emissions by five percent within its own facilities. The reduction is as much as 92 percent when including emissions reductions resulting from motorists switching to Metro’s transit system. Transit is often more more emissions efficient than vehicles with a single occupant.
Here are the latest numbers, taken from the agency’s sustainability report issued earlier this year (which I encourage you to download and peruse; it’s a pdf):
•Energy Sustainability Initiatives undertaken by Metro to both conserve energy and create renewable power. Some examples: installing solar panels at some Metro facilities and a recently-launched effort to capture and deploy energy created by the braking of subway cars.
Here are some interesting statistics: Metro currently gets about 20 percent of the total energy the agency consumes from renewable sources, including the 2.2 megawatts created annually from solar panels on Metro properties (a megawatt can typically power 200+ homes for a year). The agency is exploring the use of other renewables such as wind and bio-gas in order to reach a goal of 33 percent renewable energy use by 2020 (here’s a Board report).
•Sustainable Design Guidelines: This one is simple and makes sense — as Metro builds and rebuilds facilities, it’s using cutting-edge technology to save energy. The new San Gabriel Valley Sector office obtained a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) GOLD rating and the new Division 13 bus maintenance facility will incorporate a number of features to lower energy consumption — among then an innovating system to capture rainwater and re-use it.
All Metro facilities larger than 10,000 square feet are required to be certified at a LEED Silver Level certification.
How does all this translate for you as a rider?
From a financial perspective, the upfront costs of Metro’s environmental efforts are expected to be recovered through savings within five years — and then continue to save money well into the future.
On a more philosophical level, the numbers show that in many ways Metro is getting greener. For many riders, being green is an important consideration when choosing to take transit — and those riders can rest assured that Metro is trying to reward their faith on a number of fronts.