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5 CHAPTER one INTRODUCTION SYNTHESIS PURPOSE practices for planning and policies related to GHG emis- sions. This synthesis report draws on existing research to As concern about climate change grows in the United States, provide this knowledge base for transit agencies. all sectors of the economy are under pressure to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that contribute to climate Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the change. The transportation sector is a major source of GHG impacts that their transportation habits have on GHG emis- emissions in the United States, accounting for nearly one- sions and global climate change. Public transportation is one quarter of the country's emissions. Policy makers, planners, option that Americans can take to reduce their GHG emis- and transportation agencies are increasingly considering sions. Transit agencies should be fully aware of this benefit how the transportation sector can reduce its GHG emissions and be able to capitalize on it to attract more riders and to in the short and long terms. make the case for more funding. TRB's 1997 Special Report 251: Toward a Sustainable Future (1), identified transit investments as one of a hand- RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ful of strategies to reduce and manage GHG emissions from the transportation sector. Subsequent reports from TRB, Research for this synthesis included a literature review, a APTA, and a number of universities, consulting firms, non- survey of transit agencies, and follow-up interviews with profit organizations, and individuals have continued to find selected agencies. The literature review covered a full range that public transportation reduces GHG emissions from the of research produced on the topic in the last decade. Sources transportation sector. included previous reports from TRB, APTA, and the FTA, as well as reports from universities, nonprofit organizations, The goal of reducing GHG emissions from the transporta- and consulting firms. National studies on the public trans- tion sector is a complex challenge with no one single solution. portation industry, as well as studies and reports from indi- Strategies needed to reduce emissions are based in technol- vidual states and transit agencies, were included. Ongoing ogy, planning, and policy. Transit agencies can contribute to research on the topic was identified through TRB's Research this goal by increasing ridership, boosting vehicle passenger in Progress (RIP) database, as well as through conversations load factors, and reducing their use of energy from fossil- with professionals in the field. based sources. This synthesis supplements the existing sub- stantial literature on these topics by explaining the benefits An original survey of transit agencies determined current of these and other strategies to reduce GHG emissions. practices related to reducing GHG emissions. The survey was developed and administered by means of a web-based The purpose of this synthesis report is to equip transit platform. Candidates for the survey were chosen based on agencies with knowledge of how their services and opera- agencies' expressed or likely interest in the topic. A range of tions specifically affect transportation GHG emissions. agencies of different sizes and geographies were included. Most transit agencies in the United States are already Candidates were identified with the help of panel mem- helping to reduce GHG emissions from transportation bers and APTA. Survey candidates were contacted largely just through their normal operations. Some agencies are through e-mail. Appendix A provides additional detail on actively seeking to further reduce GHG emissions. Other the survey process and a copy of the questionnaire. agencies are looking for guidance from policy makers and examples from their peers about how best to reduce GHG Respondents to the survey were transit agency person- emissions. This report provides agencies with a summary nel from such departments as environment, corporate and of the most current research and practices in reducing GHG public affairs, planning, operations and maintenance, civil emissions through public transportation. Transit agencies engineering, grants, energy and sustainability, business will benefit from the best information available about the development, safety, and risk management. Ultimately, specific ways that transit reduces GHG emissions, tech- 41 agencies responded, resulting in a 66% response rate. niques to estimate GHG emissions impacts of transit, and Responses were received from agencies in all geographic