National Academies Press: OpenBook

Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency (2018)

Chapter: Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25042.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25042.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25042.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25042.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25042.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25042.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25042.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25042.
×
Page 71
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D - Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25042.
×
Page 72

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Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff 67 8 4 1 Advanced Moderate Early stage Figure D-3. Sustainability program status for transit agencies interviewed. Interview Findings Response to Panel’s Input on the Work Plan The panel asked the team to use the interviews to specifically address transit agencies’ needs in two topic areas: • Financial and social sustainability. • Articulating, quantifying, and monetizing the benefits that public transportation provides to regions. Interviewees generally recognized financial and social sustainability as important topic areas, but tended not to emphasize them as areas of need for their sustainability programs. Some of 7 3 3 Large Mid-size Small Figure D-4. Size of transit agencies interviewed.

68 Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency the interviewees work in environmental departments, where financial and social equity concerns are not typically housed. Some people said that other departments, or even the transit agency as a whole, are responsible for financial and social sustainability. Opportunities to address financial and social sustainability are, however, embedded in broader opportunities identified by interviewees. For example, CTA mentioned that financial sustainability resonates with the decision makers within the transit agency, and that there is a need for the sustainability program to better engage those decision makers. So clearly, commu- nication tools that address financial sustainability would benefit CTA. Several transit agencies mentioned a desire for guidance about how to structure and initiate a sustainability program. There are opportunities to integrate guidance about social and financial sustainability in that type of guidance. The need to communicate the regional benefits of public transportation came up in mul- tiple interviews. Educating the public and regional stakeholders seems to be a higher priority for the people we spoke to than quantifying or monetizing any specific regional benefits. We find that the best opportunities in this area are likely to involve disseminating best practices for communicating regional benefits rather than developing quantification tools. Current Status of Sustainability Programs The interviews began with discussions of the status of the transit agencies’ sustainability pro- grams in order to put their needs for tools in context. We found that: • Sustainability programs are in different states of development. Half of the transit agencies we spoke with had undertaken sustainability initiatives for selected projects or facilities or within specific departments and were in the process of creating comprehensive sustainability plans or policies to tie together disparate initiatives. Most of the remaining transit agencies either had more advanced programs, with comprehensive policies or plans in place. A few reported that they were in the initial stages of building support among staff and leadership. Region Transit Agency Size Program Status East Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Large Advanced New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) Large Moderate West Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Large Moderate Intercity Transit (Olympia) Small Advanced King County Metro Large Advanced Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County, Nevada Small Moderate San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Large Advanced Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Mid-size Advanced TriMet Large Moderate Utah Transit Authority (UTA) Mid-size Advanced Central Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) Small Advanced Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Large Early stage Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (Champaign- Urbana MTD) Mid-size Advanced Transit agencies contacted, but not interviewed East Hampton Roads Transit Mid-size Advanced West Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Mid-size Early stage Kitsap Transit Small Advanced Central Capital Metro (Austin) Mid-size Early stage Greater Peoria Metropolitan Transit District Small Early stage Table D-1. Summary of transit agencies interviewed.

Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff 69 • Key initiatives of sustainability programs range widely. Some transit agencies are working primarily on establishing a formal structure for the sustainability program and staff respon- sibilities, while others are focused on collecting data and setting targets. • Most of the sustainability staff that we interviewed were focusing their programs’ efforts on environmental sustainability. Financial sustainability was generally considered to be impor- tant for its potential to communicate and promote the broader benefits of environmentally- focused initiatives. Social sustainability was generally considered to be the responsibility of other parts of the transit agency, or part of the mission of the transit agency as a whole, and therefore not implemented by the sustainability program. Two transit agencies felt their sus- tainability program addressed all three aspects of sustainability. Most transit agencies under- stood that sustainability encompassed environmental, economic, and social sustainability, but said that their efforts focus primarily on the environmental aspect. • Most sustainability programs are focused on greening transit agency maintenance prac- tices, facilities, or capital projects, but there is interest in communicating the broader sustainability benefits of transit. Many transit agencies understand that transit’s biggest impact on sustainability is in reducing vehicle travel and promoting compact land use. Responsibility for communicating and assessing these broader impacts typically falls to metropolitan planning organizations or local transportation planning agencies. Several transit agencies were interested in taking a more active role to communicate the broader sustainability benefits of transit. • Sustainability programs are more often housed at the staff level than at the leadership level. Sustainability staffs typically are distributed throughout different divisions and have other responsibilities. Even dedicated sustainability staff often do not report directly to senior management. • Most interviewees felt that sustainability was not very well integrated into the day-to-day business practices of their transit agencies. Even transit agencies with comprehensive sus- tainability plans and policies often struggle with integrating sustainability into procurement, budgeting, contracting, and other everyday business practices. • Sustainability staff are using a mix of different tools and frameworks to set targets and track progress, including the APTA sustainability commitment, ISO 14001 certification, LEED certification, and environmental management systems. Some transit agencies are using asset management system-wide tools to set targets and track progress. Sometimes staff are implementing these tools or frameworks agency-wide; in other cases they are only applying them to specific facilities or processes. Core Needs and Potential Tools The following three pages summarize the needs expressed by interviewees—and list potential tools that could address each need—in three categories: • Quantification • Governance • Communication Each table lists needs in approximate order of the number of transit agencies that mentioned them.

70 Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency Quantification Needs Potential tools • Several transit agencies mentioned the need for quantification tools to assess the costs and benefits of specific sustainability decisions, including: o Analyzing ROI and life-cycle impacts of different vehicle technologies and fuels in a way that considers service characteristics and utility rate structures. (TriMet, Champaign-Urbana MTD, King County Metro, RTC) o Analyzing ROI and life-cycle impacts of using different construction materials. (TriMet) o Assessing electricity savings due to different lighting improvements. (MARTA, Champaign-Urbana MTD) o GHG quantification tools for capital projects, particularly for comparing long-term benefits from VMT reduction to short-term increases in operating emissions (SFMTA, AAATA, KC Metro) o Estimating water savings from gray water recycling (Champaign-Urbana MTD) • Online or spreadsheet-based quantification tools. • A decision guide that recommends relevant quantification tools and metrics based on the scope and structure of a transit agency’s sustainability program. • VTA and AAATA mentioned the need for tools to measure and compare return on investment across different sustainability strategies in order to both compare sustainability initiatives to each other and to more conventional ways of doing business. • A sustainable ROI spreadsheet or online tool that would include information both on sustainability strategies and conventional procurement and construction decisions, drawn from research and transit agency case studies.

Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff 71 Governance Needs Potential tools • Transit agencies that have more mature sustainability programs, including King County Metro, SFMTA, TriMet, UTA, and AAATA, need guidance on integrating sustainability throughout their operations and cultures. • A guide to best practices in addressing barriers to integrating sustainability into different transit agency departments. • A guide to best practices in managing sustainability programs, including steering committees, staffing, and organizational structures. • Guidance on employee engagement to help develop “champions” among staff, including examples of successful behavior change campaigns. • Many transit agencies felt that low-bid procurement requirements do not support sustainability goals, which often involve higher up-front costs but save money in the long term. • Case studies of successful sustainability strategies, with detailed information about how they are financed. • Decision guides for procurement processes (e.g., construction, vehicle purchases) that outline sustainability considerations and provide examples of transit agencies addressing these considerations (e.g., through design criteria, directive drawings and specifications, or contracts). • Training materials to educate contractors on best practices. • Transit agencies that are in the initial phases of establishing plans or policies, including CTA, BART, and NJ Transit, could use guidance on first steps. • Case studies of transit agency sustainability program development, including success stories and common challenges. • A “plug and play” sustainability plan template that aligns with the APTA sustainability framework. • Transit agencies that are looking to grow their programs, such as RTC, UTA, and MARTA, want to understand what their next steps should be, and how they should measure progress. • A self-assessment tool that helps transit agencies identify actions to further sustainability, relevant performance measures, and ambitious but achievable targets by comparing their progress to peer agencies. • BART and King County Metro pointed out that annual budgeting processes do not support achievement of long-term sustainability goals. • Case studies and guidance on integrating sustainability into the budgeting process or establishing dedicated funding sources that support sustainability projects.

72 Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency Communication Needs Potential tools • Multiple transit agencies mentioned a need to simplify tracking and reporting sustainability data in order to measure progress and enhance coordination among different divisions and communicate progress to management. • A platform for integrating data and outputs from different sustainability tools that reports common metrics and automatically generates graphs and other visuals. • A decision guide that recommends relevant quantification tools and metrics based on the scope and structure of a transit agency’s sustainability program. • A searchable online database that transit agencies can use to document important sustainability initiatives and achievements. • Transit agencies with more mature sustainability programs, including CTA and TriMet, were seeking ways that transit agencies could communicate sustainability successes to decision-makers and the public in order to build support for future actions. • CTA, RTC and AAATA mentioned the need to more broadly communicate the sustainability benefits of transit and promote riding transit. • Case studies of innovative examples of transit agencies communicating sustainability progress or the importance of transit in creating a sustainable transit system, such as video campaigns or signage. • Templates for “green fact sheets” that can be used to communicate successes and benefits of key sustainability initiatives. Next Steps This memo has identified several promising areas for tool development. We seek the panel’s input on our current findings and research direction in a panel teleconference, to be scheduled in early February. In the next task, Task 3, we will further research opportunities for tools and develop more specific 2–3 page mini-proposals for individual tools. For needs highlighted in Task 2, Task 3 will include researching existing tools that attempt to address those needs as well as other tools under development. Following that teleconference, the Task 3 memo containing mini-proposals for tools will be delivered in late April.

73 Federal Guidance on Climate Change Climate change is affecting the U.S. Department of Transportation’s strategic goals of safety, state of good repair, and environmental sustainability. Climate change affects day-to-day operations, short and long term planning, and costs to run and build a transit system. As a result, and in response to Executive Orders No. 13514 and 13652 and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), US DOT Climate Adaptation Plan 2014 Ensuring Transporta- tion Infrastructure and System Resilience was prepared. U.S. DOT’s Adaptation Plan recognizes that climate change—including higher temperatures, increased atmospheric water vapor, rising sea levels, and the frequency of extreme weather events—is already occurring and is expected to continue in the future. The Plan also recognizes that the Third National Climate Assessment concludes that these changes are a result of increased levels of greenhouse gases emitted from human activity over the past 50 years.1 The report also lists Notable Potential Impacts of climate change on transit: • More frequent/severe flooding of underground tunnels and low-lying infrastructure, requiring drainage and pumping, due to more intense precipitation, sea level rise, and storm surge. • Increased numbers and magnitude of storm surges and/or relative sea level rise may potentially shorten infrastructure life. • Increased thermal expansion of paved surfaces, potentially causing degradation and reduced service life, due to higher temperatures and increased duration of heat waves. • Higher maintenance/construction costs due to increased temperatures or exposure to storm surge. • Asphalt degradation and shorter replacement cycles, leading to limited access, congestion, and higher costs, due to higher temperatures. • Culvert and drainage infrastructure damage due to changes in precipitation intensity or snow melt timing. • Decreased driver/operator performance and decision-making skills due to driver fatigue as a result of adverse weather. • Increased risk of vehicle crashes in severe weather. • System downtime, derailments, and slower travel times due to buckling during extremely hot days. • Restricted access to local economies and public transportation. A P P E N D I X E Review of Climate Adaptation Tools and Guidance 1https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/2014-%20DOT-Climate-Adaptation-Plan.pdf (p. 6)

74 Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency Federal Guidance on Resiliency Planning for Severe Weather Conditions In response to extreme weather conditions, resiliency is an issue that is increasingly being recognized within the mass transit industry—especially in the past few years as severe weather events have become more frequent and intense. While a relatively new area of focus in the mass transit industry, the reports cited in this document reference and provide comprehensive details on the resiliency work that has been done nationally. It also provides background on the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) rebuilding and recovery efforts under FTA 49 CFR Part 602 (Docket No. FTA–2013–004), Emergency Relief Program (March 29, 2013) that was issued in response to Hurricane Sandy to support proposed resiliency plans. Current Practices to Incorporate Resiliency into Infrastructure Relevant Federal Criteria The FTA has defined resiliency as “a capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi-hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment.” Further, the FTA defines resiliency projects as “projects designed and built to address future vulnerabilities to the public transportation facility or system due to future recurrence of emergencies or major disasters that are likely to occur again in the geographic area in which the public transportation system is located: or projected changes in development patterns, demographics, or extreme weather or other climate patterns.”2 In identifying and prioritizing projects for funding under “Second Allocation of Pub- lic Transportation Emergency Relief Funds in Response to Hurricane Sandy: Response, Recovery & Resiliency,” the FTA stipulated the consideration of the following criteria at a minimum:3 • The identification of and assessment of the reasonable likelihood of a potential hazard or disaster; • The vulnerability of a particular system or asset to a particular hazard or disaster, and the criticality of that asset to the overall performance of the transit system; • The potential extent of damage to the asset or system from the identified hazard(s); • The total cost of implementing the proposed hazard mitigation or resiliency improvement; and, • The anticipated reduction in damage or other negative impacts that will result from the proposed project. In December 2013, the FTA released the “Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for Resilience Projects in Response to Hurricane Sandy” for $3 billion to fund competitive resiliency (i.e., Tier 3) projects. The NOFA provides the following project evaluation factors: • Hazard Mitigation Cost Effectiveness • Project Implementation Strategy • Protection of Most Essential and Vulnerable Infrastructure • Local and Regional Planning Collaboration and Coordination • Interdependency of the Public Transportation Resilience Project • Local Financial Commitment • Technical Capacity • Other Factors (geographic diversity, diversity among project types) 2Memorandum from US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration, “Second Allocation of Public Transporta- tion Emergency Relief Funds in Response to Hurricane Sandy: Response, Recovery & Resiliency,” May 2013, p. 11–12 3Ibid., p. 13

Review of Climate Adaptation Tools and Guidance 75 Studies on Resiliency In response to the threat from severe weather events to transit and transportation generally, the FTA, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems (Volpe) Center have recently released, or are planning to release, major climate adaptation reports. The first two studies are included as part of the recommended practices on the FTA’s website: • U.S. Department of Transportation, FTA, Office of Budget and Policy, “Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails: Public Transportation and Climate Change Adaptation, FTA Report No. 0001,” 2011 (“Flooded Bus Barns”) • U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, “Climate Change & Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework,” December 2012 Additionally, the Volpe Center released a study on resiliency: • U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center, “Infrastructure Resiliency: A Risk Based Framework,” June 2013 Finally, the FTA released a report in 2014, on the Transit Climate Change Adaptation Assessment Pilots4 awarded competitively to seven transit agencies across the country. The pilots follow up on the FTA’s “Flooded Bus Barns” and are the agency’s next step in addressing adaptation in transit. “Flooded Bus Barns” was undertaken “to provide transit professionals with information and analysis relevant to adapting U.S. public transportation assets and services to climate change impacts.”5 The study advocates “taking a risk management approach that mitigates risk without expensively over-engineering assets.”6 The steps identified in the study for performing risk assess- ments include: 1) identifying climate hazards; 2) characterizing the risk to transit agency infra- structure and operations; 3) linking risk mitigation strategies to the organizational structures and responsibilities; 4) implementing adaptation plans; and, 5) monitoring and reassessing. The report further states that an asset management system offers a streamlined framework for identifying climate risks, tracking climate impacts on asset condition, and incorporating adaptation strategies into capital plans and budgets. The study further provides case studies that illustrate the use of criticality and vulnerability of assets to assess risk. Criteria for assessing criticality of transit assets included effects on the regional economy, with regard to accessibility and on emergency evacua- tion. Vulnerability included the identification of thresholds above that which impacts are severe (e.g., inches of rain per hour before drainage systems are overwhelmed). The FHWA’s “Climate Change Adaptation & Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment” states that, “It is important to recognize . . . that typical historical climate conditions are unlikely to be representative of all future climate conditions. . . . Furthermore, it is unlikely that the trends of past decades will persist unchanged into the future; especially on longer timescales (greater than 30 to 40 years). Simply extending past trend lines into the future may underestimate future changes.”7 The purpose of the FHWA report is to provide a framework and guide, with a collec- tion of resources for use in analyzing the impacts of extreme weather on all transportation infrastructure—including transit. The framework for performing vulnerability assessments includes three steps: (1) defining the scope/objectives for a vulnerability assessment, such as siting 4U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, “Transit and Climate Change Adaptation: Synthesis of FTA-Funded Pilot Projects.” 5U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, Office of Budget and Policy, “Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails: Public Transportation and Climate Change Adaptation, FTA Report No. 0001,” 2011, p. vii 6Ibid., p.2 7U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, “Climate Change & Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework,” December 2012, p.18

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