National Academies Press: OpenBook

Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency (2018)

Chapter: Chapter 3 - Final Tools

« Previous: Chapter 2 - User-Centered Design Process
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Final Tools." 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:"Chapter 3 - Final Tools." 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:"Chapter 3 - Final Tools." 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:"Chapter 3 - Final Tools." 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:"Chapter 3 - Final Tools." 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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24 Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency How to Use the Calculator The Calculator contains two separate estimators. Depending on the project in question, users may use either or both of the estimators. The Internal Cost-Benefit (C-B) Estimator evaluates a transit agency’s TCO for a proposed sustainability project. It also evaluates environmental resource savings, such as electricity and emissions, due to a sustainability project. The External Benefits Estimator evaluates benefits from transit that accrue to the region in which the transit service operates. This estimator can be used in two different ways. First, it can be used to evaluate a proposed project that would increase transit ridership. Second, it can be used to evaluate the benefits of ridership on existing service. The benefits estimated here accrue to the region because people ride transit instead of driving. This estimator is not applicable to projects that do not affect transit ridership. The Resource Library There are many different types of transit sustainability projects, from energy efficiency upgrades in maintenance facilities, to water conservation projects, to bus rapid transit lines. The breadth of projects is too large to even list comprehensively. In order to make a tool that could evaluate every conceivable type of project, the team kept the inputs in this calculator rather generic. The user of the tool has to estimate specific types of costs and savings for his or her particu- lar project. To help with that, the team created the Resource Library tab. On this tab users will find links to resources that can help them estimate specific inputs for projects involving vehicle fuels, renewable energy, energy efficiency, water conservation, waste diversion, and materials and construction. 3.3 Looking Toward Version 2.0 Sustainability Routemap v2.0 In sharing the working prototype, draft final, and final versions of the Sustainability Routemap, the project team received a lot of positive feedback. They also heard ideas about how the Routemap could evolve in future versions. Many users expressed a desire to see more examples of actions with social and economic ben- efits highlighted in the tool. While available examples from transit agencies tend to focus more on environmental benefits, the Routemap could serve as a tool to make social and economic sustainability more broadly understood. The project team agrees that social and economic sus- tainability need more time in the spotlight. As transit agencies make progress on those topics, a Routemap v2.0 could also give them more emphasis. Users also commented that the Routemap could become an integral part of APTA’s Sustain- ability Commitment. The Commitment focuses heavily on sustainability metrics and targets and less so on change management. The material in the Routemap could help to guide signatories toward higher levels of achievement through program development and change management. A Routemap v2.0 could more directly complement the existing Sustainability Commitment by providing a more robust set of actions that signatories can take to earn achievement. It is the hope as a project team that a future version of the Routemap will also evolve in two more ways. First, the goal is that the Sustainability Routemap v2.0 can become a fully interactive

Final Tools 25 web-based tool. The Routemap seeks to serve a broad audience, and one if its primary functions is to help guide users toward material that will be helpful to them. A web-based or app-based interface would provide much more flexibility to design for ease of navigation than the PDF format does. In addition, websites and apps lend themselves more naturally to being updated over time. The current version of the Routemap is a snapshot of practices in 2017. As sustainability programs at transit agencies continue to grow and evolve, the Routemap should grow and evolve with them. The second goal is that version 2.0 will have a feature that supports community interaction and dialogue. A web- or app-based Routemap could include a forum for sharing new practices as they evolve, testing them across different transit agencies, and promoting the ones that work for inclusion in the Routemap. S+ROI Calculator v2.0 The S+ROI Calculator was also well-received, but there are already opportunities for improve- ment in a version 2.0. Comments received generally fell into one of two categories: • Suggestions for additional metrics that the Calculator could estimate and • Requests to make the Calculator easier or more intuitive to use More metrics are not necessarily better. Still, all of the suggestions for additional metrics received have their own merits. They include: • Reduced construction waste, • Social cost of carbon, • Reduced stormwater effluent, and • Job creation. The S+ROI Calculator version 2.0 could include different pathways for different project types. For example, there could be different input screens for the following: • Capital projects involving major construction, • Projects that change the transit rider’s experience, • Energy efficiency projects, and • Projects that affect water use or water quality. Creating different pathways would allow for more specific terminology and metrics that apply to some project types and not to others. Users could also choose which metrics they would like to see as outputs. For example, for a strict financial feasibility analysis, a user may not be interested in applying the social cost of carbon to GHG reductions generated by the project. However, a different user who is interested in conducting a more theoretical cost-benefit analysis may wish to include the social cost of carbon. The greatest hope for the S+ROI Calculator is that it can become a commonly used—even standard—tool for evaluation of sustainability projects at transit agencies. That would help to create a common language around these types of evaluations. It would also help to generate a library of real project evaluations that peer agencies could use to get a sense of project feasibility before conducting their own analyses. Like the Routemap, the S+ROI Calculator could become a sort of platform for community knowledge sharing.

26 TCRP Project H-53, “Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency,” took a unique approach for a Cooperative Research Program project. More than just conducting a research project and shar- ing the results, the project team set out to address a specific need—that of transit agencies for better tools and guidance—without initially knowing how to address that need. The team used a user-centered design process to explore many aspects of that need and to settle on two tools to build: the Sustainability Routemap and the S+ROI Calculator. Along the way, the team heard about many more needs than could be addressed in this project. They chose two to focus on: • Transit agencies need guidance on integrating sustainability programs in how their agencies do business, and • Transit agencies need a simple, universal way to evaluate the costs and benefits of potential projects and investments. But even these were larger in scope than the two tools produced. These tools should provide enduring utility to sustainability staff at transit agencies, but it was necessary to continually refine and narrow their scope throughout the process in order to complete them. The Sustain- ability Routemap could have many more times the content that it does. And the Calculator could include many more algorithms to make providing inputs even simpler for users. What was accomplished with these two tools provides a solid starting point for addressing those two needs identified. The intention is that users will find the tools compelling enough to invest in learning how to use them, to promote their use among peers, and to advocate for continual improvements. This project aims to be a successful application of a relatively new approach to research— user-centered design. The team could never have designed the tools without the genuine interest and support of the panel members and many other sustainability staff at transit agencies who stepped in to describe their experiences and their needs, to test the tools and give feedback, and to imagine the possibilities. C H A P T E R 4 Conclusion

27 During the course of the project we generated many ideas and plans for tools that we did not ultimately create. This section provides information about those ideas that were not advanced, so that future projects might develop some of the most promising ones. A P P E N D I X A First Iteration Tool Design Briefs Table A-1. Summary assessments of tool ideas. (continued on next page) Tool idea What is it? Opportunities and potential benefits Challenges Level of effort 1. Green bus fleet tool Spreadsheet-based tool to quantify costs and benefits of different vehicle options Every transit agency purchases buses; there is a common set of green technology options (hybrids, alternative fuels) Bus technologies are evolving rapidly High 2a. Criteria for budget prioritization List of criteria and questions to incorporate into budgeting mechanisms There are many existing tools for analyzing return on investment for sustainability strategies that can support budgeting for sustainability Budgeting processes vary widely Medium 2b. “Greening the system” vs. “greening the region” Spreadsheet to compare benefits of operational improvements with regional benefits of transit (reducing VMT) There are separate sets of tools that quantify both operational and regional benefits that could be better aligned Many transit agencies do not have control over land use and other factors that affect regional benefits High 3a. Case studies of governance models Organizational charts and case studies best practices for structuring sustainability programs There are general resources on transit agency governance and sustainability program management Transit agency organizational structures vary so widely it may be hard to create general guidance Low to medium 3b. Sustainability program road map Case studies and guidance that help transit agencies navigate key decisions in establishing a sustainability program Transit agencies at all stages in program development can benefit from guidance Transit agencies may not be similar enough to develop a single road map Low to medium 3c. Employee incentive program Case studies of innovative practices in fostering buy-in among employees Getting buy-in from employees is critical to transit agency-wide sustainability program implementation Not all transit agencies have dedicated budgets for sustainability Low to medium

28 Tools for a Sustainable Transit Agency The fact sheets on the following pages summarize our research and first iteration tool ideas in each topic area. Table A-1. (Continued). Tool idea What is it? Opportunities and potential benefits Challenges Level of effort 4a. Lifecycle cost/ ROI tool Spreadsheet tool and guidance to help guide decisions when purchasing green buses With ROI driving procurement decisions, incorporating sustainability costs and benefits is key to shifting the decision making Procurement processes vary widely High 4b. Procurement manual assembly tool Catalog of sample policy text and procurement language to support green bus procurement Transit agencies can build on best practices to design a procurement approach that fits best for them Variation between transit agencies may require developing numerous options High 5a. Interactive self-assessment survey Survey tool that identifies gaps in sustainability programs and potential solutions Fills a key gap; there is no guidance on how to establish a transit agency sustainability program Need to identify core standards against which programs can be compared High 5b. Assessment manual Guidance document to help transit agencies identify gaps in sustainability programs and potential solutions Fills a key gap; there is no guidance on how to establish a transit agency sustainability program Need to identify core standards against which programs can be compared Medium 6. Sustainability tracking tool Spreadsheet tool that simplifies data collection, metric calculation, and visualization Could streamline the burdensome process of collecting data and produce more appealing results Would require a very complex tool to account for the wide variation in metrics and protocols High 7a. Communication best practices Review of best practices among transit agencies that are actively communicating sustainability efforts Could help transit agencies navigate the bewildering array of communication platforms currently available Transit agencies may have limited effort available to deviate from existing websites, reports, etc. Medium 7b. Communicating material development tool Interactive tool that helps transit agencies develop interactive graphics or fact sheets to communicate successes Compelling visuals and summary fact sheets offer a concise method for communicating complex program efforts May be difficult to account for different transit agency graphic templates High

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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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