National Academies Press: OpenBook

Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency (2018)

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

« Previous: Appendix C - Proposals for Tools Developed
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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 67
Page 68
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 68
Page 69
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 69
Page 70
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 70
Page 71
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
Page 72
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

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

64 Introduction The goal of TCRP H-53 is to develop a suite of attractive and user-friendly tools that guides transit agencies through some of the key steps and challenges in implementing sustainability. Sustainability is a broad topic, and transit agencies’ needs vary widely. The initial tasks focus on identifying the most pressing needs that transit agencies face, assessing how these needs can be addressed within the scope of this project, and proposing potential tools. Figure D-1 visualizes this process. This memo describes the process and findings of interviews conducted with transit agen- cies in Task 2. It communicates preliminary conclusions about the needs of transit agen- cies’ sustainability programs, along with suggested ways that this project could help address those needs. We seek the panel’s input on our current findings and research direction in a panel teleconfer- ence, to be scheduled in early February. Following the teleconference in Task 3, we will further research opportunities for tools and develop more specific 2–3 page mini-proposals for individual tools. We will submit proposals as part of the Interim Report at the conclusion of Task 3. The remainder of this memo is structured as follows: • Interview Process • Interview Findings • Next Steps Interview Process We initially invited eighteen transit agencies to participate in the Task 2 process. Each transit agency was invited to participate in a one-hour interview, with the subsequent possibility of join- ing the User Focus Group to provide ongoing input to the project. We successfully interviewed thirteen of the eighteen transit agencies. We aimed to include a diversity of interviewees by geography, transit agency size, and maturity of sustainability program. Several panel members asked us to make a special effort to include more transit agencies in the Central and Eastern U.S. The team did identify additional contacts in those regions. However, due to non-response by a few transit agen- cies, our sample remains weighted towards the Western U.S. Nevertheless, we believe that A P P E N D I X D Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff

Task 2 Memo on Interviews with Transit Agency Sustainability Staff 65 our sample provides an excellent starting point for identifying the needs of transit agencies because: • Transit agency size and maturity of the sustainability program are more important determinants of needs than geography. • Half of our thirteen transit agencies are small or mid-sized. • One third of our thirteen transit agencies have a sustainability program in an early or moder- ate stage of development. Figure D-2 shows the location of the thirteen transit agencies interviewed. Two are in the Eastern U.S., eight are in the West, and three are in the Central region. Figure D-1. Process for identifying needs and proposing tools.

66 Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency Figure D-3 summarizes the stage of development of transit agencies’ sustainability programs. We use the following categories to assess sustainability program status: • Advanced: these transit agencies have comprehensive sustainability plans or policies and mature sustainability programs that have implemented a wide range of projects. They gener- ally consider themselves leaders in their peer group. • Moderate: these transit agencies have long been working to address sustainability and have implemented many sustainability strategies or projects, but have not created an agency-wide policy or program to integrate these efforts. Many of these transit agencies are currently working to develop an agency-wide sustainability policy or environmental management system. • Early stage: these transit agencies are in the early stages of identifying and implementing sustainability projects. They may be working to reboot past sustainability efforts that have gone dormant. Figure D-4 summarizes the size of the transit agencies interviewed, classified as follows: • Large: over 100 million unlinked passenger trips per year. • Mid-size: between 10 and 100 million unlinked passenger trips per year. • Small: less than 10 million unlinked passenger trips per year. Transit agencies at each stage provide different insights and needs for tools; thereby allowing the team to develop tools that will be used by transit agencies of all sizes and stages of develop- ment of sustainability programs. Table D-1 lists the transit agencies interviewed, as well as those that we contacted but that did not respond to requests for an interview, by region, size, and the status of their sustainability programs. Figure D-2. Location of interviewee transit agencies.

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.

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TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Research Report 197: Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency explores the development of practical tools for improving sustainability at transit agencies:

  • The Sustainability Routemap: An interactive PDF, similar to a website, that guides the user to improve a transit agency’s sustainability program through application of change management principles, best practice examples, and references to online tools.
  • The Sustainability Checklist
  • The S+ROI Calculator: An Excel workbook that quantitatively evaluates potential sustainability projects in terms of financial, social, and environmental returns.
  • The S+ROI Calculator BRT Example
  • The S+ROI Calculator Solar Panel Example

The tools are available to download as a .zip file.

Disclaimer - This software is offered as is, without warranty or promise of support of any kind either expressed or implied. Under no circumstance will the National Academy of Sciences or the Transportation Research Board (collectively "TRB") be liable for any loss or damage caused by the installation or operation of this product. TRB makes no representation or warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, in fact or in law, including without limitation, the warranty of merchantability or the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, and shall not in any case be liable for any consequential or special damages.

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