Thomas Abdallah (left), of MTA New York City Transit, explores how mass transit can make a city more sustainable, as well as saving time, energy, costs and resources.
Mass transit networks, with the variety and versatility of infrastructure, facilities and vehicles, and the connectivity with other aspects of city living from an economic, social and engineering standpoint, present many opportunities for sustainable creativity.
In the past decade, mass transit agencies have adopted many sustainability initiatives that in numerous cases have become standard practice. If history is any indication, mass transit agencies in the US will seek further opportunities for more sustainability initiatives.
Mass transit agencies across the US have installed initiatives that have saved energy, money and made a difference from a social aspect. Many high level and superb sustainable initiatives have been adopted by mass transit agencies in the US and elsewhere, and there have been some standout organizations that have made sustainability a cornerstone of their operations, planning, design and construction. (For more examples of solutions that are making Europe's cities smarter, see the agenda for Smart to Future Cities in London this April.)
Mass transit can save a city money and resources, plus makes the city more sustainable in the process.
From large-scale engineering projects to small-scale strategies, and everything in between, mass transit networks present endless choices for an agency to provide sustainable solutions for the benefit of cities, and of course to be more sustainable itself.
In the last decade MTA New York City Transit incorporated photovoltaic (PV) or solar panels onto above-ground elevated station canopies. The design and reconstruction of elevated infrastructure projects, the Stillwell Terminal in Brooklyn, and the 74th Street/ Roosevelt Ave Complex in Queens, all included solar panels integrated into platform canopies. Solar panel equipped lubrication houses, which are necessary to reduce the level of noise generated around curved track, are located wayside on the Culver Line.
New York's tightly integrated mass transit system is considered by some to be the best in the world. Image: Zach Inglis, Unsplash
The Corona Subway Maintenance Shop became the first LEED certified public transportation facility in 2007. The new Mother Clara Hale Bus Depot attained Gold level LEED certification in May 2015. NYCT facilities include bus depots which include rooftop rainwater collection for bus washing. The E180th Street Yard Signal Crew Quarter includes MTA NYCT's 1st Green roof. The entire NYCT signal light system of approximately 65,000 incandescent signal lights were converted to Light Emitting Diode (LED) signal lights.
Thus, a major opportunity for any city to be more sustainable is to supplement or add mass transit, in the form of train or bus service. However, ultimately, it is down to everyone associated with mass transit, from direct employees who operate, plan, design and maintain, to the infinite amount of people who indirectly provide this essential service, to ensure a safe, reliable and sustainable system. MTA New York City Transit has been at the forefront of including sustainable elements into its capital projects.
— Thomas Abdallah, Deputy Vice President & Chief Environmental Engineer, MTA New York City Transit