January 21, 2016
In 2016 SEPTA will install seven (7) new energy storage devices on the Market-Frankford Line and Broad Street Lines. The historic project supports SEPTA's Sustainability Program pledge of "budget neutrality" and represents the first-ever fully commercial deployment of energy storage in a transit operation.
The Wayside Energy Storage System (WESS) build out was accomplished because of SEPTA's commitment to pursue new sources of revenue and cost savings, a strong partnership with Viridity Energy - a Conshohocken (PA) based smart gird firm - and a sustainability pledge to improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases.
This historic project has been several years in the making. It began in 2010 when SEPTA partnered with Viridity Energy on a WESS pilot at the "Letterly Substation" on the Market-Frankford Line (MFL) in the Kensington Section of North Philadelphia. The idea behind the pilot was to install an energy storage device (think a really big battery) at a SEPTA substation to capture, store, and reuse electricity generated from braking trains. If successful, the battery would improve energy efficiency and reduce energy demand along one section of the Market-Frankford corridor.
July 8, 2015
Last week in the journal entry entitled "Turning Covered Bicycle Parking Plans into Reality" we described plans for rolling out the first installments of enhanced bicycle infrastructure on Regional Rail. This week we will focus on bicycle infrastructure improvements at Market-Frankford Line and Broad Street Line stations.
July 1, 2015
In April 2015, SEPTA published the first ever Cycle-Transit Plan. One initiative included in the plan is to install covered and/or secure bicycling parking at rail stations. Over the next two weeks, this Journal will describe plans for rolling out the first installments of a $3 million, 3 year program to turn SEPTA's Cycle Transit Plan into reality. This week, the focus is on Regional Rail. Next week, the focus will turn to the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines.
June 1, 2015
SEPTA's bus loop renovation at 23rd and Venango in Upper North Philadelphia is the most recent example of sustainable design at SEPTA. The design for the new bus loop supports SEPTA's "triple- bottom-line" approach to sustainability.
April 27, 2015
In honor of Air Quality Awareness Week, April 27 - May 1, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) asks Pennsylvanians to renew their commitment to protecting air by taking proactive steps. At the top of the DEP's list: utilizing public transit!
April 22, 2015
UPDATE: SEPTA Planner Becky Collins was nominated by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia as a person "behind the scenes" working hard to make Philadelphia a great place to be a cyclist. Vote for Becky here!
This week, SEPTA releases its fourth Sustainability Annual Report. The report chronicles a year of progress towards SEPTA's twelve sustainability goals. Because SEPTA is committed to sustaining a comprehensive triple bottom line sustainability agenda, each goal is categorized into one of the three pillars of sustainability (environmental-social-economic).
In 2014 SEPTA made significant strides towards achieving several of the sustainability goals. The full report can be read here. A summary of 2014 progress is available below:
April 14, 2015
Philadelphia will join the ranks of cities with comprehensive bike share programs later this month. The new program, called Indego, will represent a new travel alternative for Philadelphians, complementing the existing public transportation network with another non-automotive option.
Throughout the Bike Share planning process, the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) worked with SEPTA to determine Bike Share station locations near SEPTA locations. For example, Bike Share stations will be located within a block of the following station stops:
March 19, 2015
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission recently published the Trenton Line Access Study. The study focuses on ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle access to Regional Rail Station on the I-95 Corridor.
March 9, 2015
Last week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released a series of reports detailing the extraordinary challenges that transit agencies face in responding to climate change. Disruptions in service and damage to assets associated with extreme weather events in recent years have brought into focus the importance of considering climate variability in agency plans for the future.
December 3, 2014
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are one of the most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing lighting technologies in the world today. Not only do LED bulbs last longer than traditional incandescent and florescent bulbs, they also use energy far more efficiently. Unlike incandescent and florescent bulbs, which release 90 percent of their energy as heat, LEDs waste little heat and therefore cost less to operate then a traditional bulb.
According to the US Department of Energy, widespread use of LED lighting has the greatest potential impact on energy savings in the United States. For SEPTA, not only does replacing current florescent lighting with LED's on subway and high speed line cars provide significant energy savings but there are labor and customer experience benefits as well.
Stormwater Infrastructure Part of 23rd & Venango Design
October 24, 2014
SEPTA will utilize remaining funds to revitalize the 23rd & Venango Bus Loop which will be featured here once it is completed.
June 19, 2014
As summer approaches, so does a new season of farmers markets in Philadelphia. SEPTA customers need to look no further than their nearest SEPTA transportation center for fresh fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers.
November 5, 2013
SEPTA's Environmental and Sustainability Management System (ESMS) at Berridge Bus Overhaul Facility and Print Shop in North Philadelphia has achieved ISO 14001:2004 certification. A video commemorating the certification is available here.
The certification is more than two years in the making. SEPTA managers partnered with front-line engineering, maintenance, and construction staff to review daily shop activities, products, and services to ensure that they are conducted in a manner that provides environmental, health, and safety benefits to SEPTA employees and contractors.
October 8, 2013
A new study released yesterday by Econsult Solutions, Inc. finds that SEPTA's Regional Rail system supports $6 billion in suburban property values, or $7,900 per single-family home. In suburban communities with higher levels of Regional Rail service and parking capacity, the study finds that property value premiums average between $31,000 and $37,000 per house within three miles of a Regional Rail station. These premiums are distributed across Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.
September 26, 2013
SEPTA gathered with local elected officials and community members in Strawberry Mansion yesterday to celebrate the completion of reconstruction of the 33rd and Dauphin Bus Loop.
The 33rd and Dauphin Bus Loop Improvement Project, a $4 million initiative funded by a competitive grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), has resulted in a full make-over of the facility, which is a key part of SEPTA's city bus operations.
The loop has significant historic value to the community, and the reconstruction has kept this legacy in-tact. The new loop incorporates original brick and masonry that has been recycled, the cherubs that have long marked the facade, and repaired and repainted decorative cornice trim - features that have made this loop unique and a neighborhood cornerstone.
September 23, 2013
Manuel McDonnell Smith
Public Information Manager
The number of parks throughout Philadelphia increases dramatically each year on one day in September, when activists, artists, architects and citizens transform metered parking spaces into temporary public parks. Known as Park(ing) Day, the annual event hosted in over 160 cities worldwide re-imagines the possibilities of 170 square feet of public space. "The event celebrates parks and other public spaces and raises awareness of the need for more pedestrian-friendly spaces in our urban areas", shared SEPTA's Marketing Director Elizabeth Bradford.
August 8, 2013
In 2012, the Franklin Institute received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of a five-year multi-city collaborative to study the prospects for enhancing urban quality of life through an informed response to climate change. SEPTA has been a partner in this effort, now referred to as the Climate Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP), from its inception.
On July 29, 2013, SEPTA and the Franklin Institute unveiled its first joint initiative under CUSP - a mural at the Huntingdon Station in the Kensington section of North Philadelphia. The mural represents an effort to communicate the positive environmental impact of SEPTA's cutting-edge wayside energy storage project, located just blocks away at an electrical substation along the Market-Frankford Line.
July 12, 2013
Public Information Manager
One of the best things about SEPTA is its long-term employees who know everything about the system. The unfortunate thing is that when those employees walk out the door, all of their knowledge goes with them. But, SEPTA's taking action to make sure this doesn't happen.
With the creation and implementation of a new succession planning program, SEPTA is making sure that institutional knowledge is getting passed down to the next generation and once again setting an industry standard. The new program, officially referred to as Advancing Internal Management (AIM), will serve as a best practice resource for other large transit agencies and strives to ensure continuity of leadership in the event of planned or unplanned turnover in critical leadership positions across the Authority. To signify the program's start, a kick-off event for the inaugural AIM class and SEPTA's top officials was held on June 24.
May 7, 2013
Last week, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI) published a report that stresses the critical importance of SEPTA to the economy of southeastern Pennsylvania and the entire state. The report, entitled "Understanding SEPTA's Statewide Economic Value," affirms what SEPTA has known to be true for some time: that public transportation is the lifeblood of southeastern Pennsylvania.
The report presents results from a comprehensive analysis of SEPTA's stewardship of public funds, the economic and fiscal impacts of its investments, and the long-term consequences of continued underfunding of the system. Key findings include:
- SEPTA supports nearly 26,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, contributes $3.21 billion in economic output, and generates $62.5 million in state tax revenues;
- SEPTA carries 77% of transit riders in the state and receives 62% of state transit funding;
- Fare recovery ratios are comparable to peer transit agencies and higher than those of other systems in Pennsylvania;
- Ridership is at a 23-year high, but SEPTA's current capital budget is at 15-year low;
- SEPTA's 2013 capital budget of $304 million is smaller than those of its peer group. For example, Boston's MBTA 2013 capital budget exceeds $800 million;
- $452 million annually in additional capital funding is required to work off SEPTA's backlog of capital need; and
- Without an infusion of capital funding, SEPTA will not be able to provide current levels of service which could cost the region nearly 25,000 jobs, $96 million in tax revenue, and $8 billion in property value.
February 12, 2013
In February 2012, SEPTA formally adopted its Environmental & Sustainability Management System (ESMS). More than a year in the making, the ESMS was built on the internationally recognized ISO 14001 Standard for environmental management. It represents the platform upon which SEPTA will more effectively manage its environmental compliance and performance across the entire organization.
The foundation for an ISO 14001-based program is the "plan-do-check-act" cycle of continual improvement. Its 17 elements represent a set of processes and practices focused on controlling the impact of environmental exposures. For SEPTA, ESMS creates an institutional framework for setting environmental objectives and targets, developing action plans to achieve measurable performance indicators, tracking progress over time, and making adjustments as required.
January 23, 2013
2012 By the Numbers:
- 69,844,564: Pounds of carbon avoided thanks to ridership growth and congestion reduction
- 15,391,959: Pounds of carbon removed from operation of vehicles and infrastructure
- $23,000,000: Total amount of competitive grant funding received to replace aging diesel buses with new hybrid-electric buses, beginning in 2013
- $2,269,413: Savings projected from full implementation of Energy Action Plan
- $1,000,000: Rate at which statewide transportation funding needs increase per day
- $34,706: Rebates received from PECO for energy efficiency investments
- 19,342: "Seniors Ride Free" passes issued
- 1,500: Pounds of food grown at Walnut Hill Community Farm
- 650: Family and friends participating in Philly Spring Clean-Up Day
- 300: Respondents to first sustainability survey
- 170: Trees planted at 12 project sites
- 150: Attendees at American Public Transportation (APTA) Sustainability & Public Transportation Workshop, hosted in August in Philadelphia
- 84: Average annual trips per capita taken on SEPTA
- 19: Tons of food collected from passengers and employees for Philabundance
- 16: Outreach event participation by the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program Office
- 11.9%: Percent of employees that commute to work via public transit in southeastern Pennsylvania
- 8.5%: Waste diversion rate at passenger stations and employee facilities
- 8.23: Pounds of carbon displaced per trip by the average SEPTA rider
- 4: Farmers markets on SEPTA property
- 3.09: Carbon displaced per unit of carbon emitted
September 28, 2012
Bicycles are a key element of the regional transportation system, and improving linkages with the transit network is an important way of promoting broader mobility. That is why SEPTA's Sustainability Program prioritizes becoming a more bike-accessible transit system as part of its goal to integrate with livable communities.
Together with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, NJ Transit, and PATCO, SEPTA is now collecting information on how transit stations can better accommodate bicyclists. The data will be collected through the OpenPlans organization's "Shareabouts" platform, a crowdsourcing map that will allow users to click on a specific stop or station and input information about its bike-related characteristics.
September 20, 2012
SEPTA's recent success in securing federal funding through competitive grant programs is due in part to key support from its partners. The newly released "Community Investment Index (CI^2)," a product of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), has been particularly helpful by identifying place-based investments already on the ground to promote livable, sustainable communities across the region.
SEPTA has used this new tool to strategically advance its own transportation improvement projects in the immediate geographic vicinity of those existing investments. Ultimately, the result has been a better alignment of resources across sectors and agencies, magnifying the impact of each dollar spent on projects to achieve broader livability and sustainability goals at a neighborhood scale.
September 13, 2012
Since the early 20th century, the 33rd & Dauphin Bus Loop has served as a hub for the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of Philadelphia. On Monday, SEPTA broke ground on a project that will transform the facility for the century to come.
The $4.4 million project, funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) "Livability" initiative, will totally renovate the aging "bus barn" with state of the art, historically sensitive, and sustainable design features. They include:
- New passenger amenities and retail space
- Salvaged brick, repointed masonry, and repaired decorative cornice trim
- A green roof and landscaped bio-retention basin to mitigate stormwater runoff
- Accessibility improvements, such as raised-boarding areas and new curb cuts
- Safety enhancements, such as a redesign of bus lanes to optimize traffic flow
- An Art-in-Transit project
August 17, 2012
Last week, SEPTA was recognized by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for industry-leading achievements towards sustainability performance targets. APTA awarded SEPTA with a "Gold" level recognition under its Sustainability Commitment and cited its wayside energy storage project and aggressive hybrid bus campaign as examples of SEPTA's cutting-edge approach to sustainability. "SEPTA is only the fourth public transit system to achieve the Gold Recognition Level," said King County Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond, who serves as the Chair of the APTA Sustainability Committee and presented the award. "SEPTA is a national leader in sustainability, and employees and riders should be very proud." (For coverage of award, click here.)
The award was accepted by SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey in front of more than 150 transit industry officials who had descended on Philadelphia for the 8th annual APTA "Sustainability & Public Transportation Workshop". The three day conference was an opportunity to showcase all of the progress that Greater Philadelphia has made in building a more sustainable region.
August 10, 2012
By Heather Redfern, SEPTA Press Officer
A fresh salad with leafy greens, juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers and zucchini is a refreshing meal for a hot summer day. Would you believe that the delicious vegetables you are enjoying are grown on a SEPTA lot, next to Market-Frankford Line station in West Philadelphia?
The Walnut Hill Community Farm at 46th and Market Streets is marking its second season. Operated by The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation (TEC), the farm is adjacent to the 46th Street MFL station, in a lot used by SEPTA during the extensive "El" reconstruction project. When the renovations were completed in 2009, the Authority was left with a vacant plot of land and looking for a way to turn the location to a community asset.
Enter TEC, whose leadership was developing a plan to teach the neighborhood's residents about sustainable food production. With the SEPTA lot available, TEC would be able to give residents a "hands-on" learning experience at the farm.
July 6, 2012
For nearly 100 years, SEPTA's Letterly Substation in Kensington has been powering a portion of the Market-Frankford Line. On June 27, 2012, SEPTA officially unveiled a new device that will turn the facility into a cutting edge home of an emerging power technology for years to come.
That technology is called "wayside energy storage," and it has the potential to transform energy-consuming trains into rolling power generators. Made possible by a $900,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA), SEPTA partnered with Philadelphia-based smart grid firm Viridity Energy to design and implement a storage system to capture, store, and reuse "regenerative energy" created by braking trains.
June 29, 2012
When SEPTA included a commitment to access to local food via transit as a goal under its Sustainability Program Plan, it didn't realize how much momentum and new partnerships the goal would create both within the organization and in the communities it serves. To quote James Beard: "Food is our common ground, a universal experience." This has most certainly been the case as SEPTA moves into its second season of its Farm-to-SEPTA initiative.
The initiative includes two programs:
- 1) An employer-hosted CSA program, and
- 2) Farmers markets at SEPTA stations.
April 27, 2012
Last summer, the Philadelphia region was pummeled by a hurricane (Irene) and tropical storm (Lee) that dumped more than 10 inches of rain in just 12 days. This one-two punch flooded large portions of the SEPTA system, resulting in the first planned suspension of service in the organization's 40-plus year history.
While back-to-back tropical-force storms are an anomaly, the increasing severity and frequency of heavy rain events is in fact indicative of an increasing trend towards extreme climate variability. Since 2010, the five counties of southeastern Pennsylvania have experienced:
- The snowiest winter ever (2010 - 78.7 in)
- The warmest summer ever (2010 - 79.6 degrees)
- The most days over 90 degrees ever (2010 - 55)
- The warmest July ever (2011 - 82.4 degrees)
- The wettest month ever (Aug. 2011 - 19.8 in)
- The wettest year ever (2011 - 64.3 in)
March 20, 2012
Peer recognition is often the truest indicator of performance.
By that measure, SEPTA's Sustainability Program has been a success. In August, SEPTA will host the 2012 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) "Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop." The four-day conference will bring hundreds of the industry's most influential sustainability and environmental policy professionals to the Philadelphia region, where they will sample SEPTA's progress towards a comprehensive environmental, social, and economic sustainability agenda.
SEPTA's Sustainability Program, adopted by the SEPTA Board in January 2011, formalized the organization's commitment to sustainability. APTA's selection of Philadelphia as the site for this important annual event less than two years after the plan's Board adoption reflects the industry's recognition of SEPTA's emergence as a leader in the field.
February 3, 2012
YEAR 2011 - BY THE NUMBERS:
- $22,787,000: Value of five discretionary grants received for environmental initiatives (hybrid buses-2; wayside energy storage; climate adaptation; emissions reductions)
- $500,000: Estimated annual value of two innovative wayside storage devices calibrated to sell electricity back to the grid
- $104,143: Annual savings from switching headquarters to daytime cleaning
- $22,492: PECO rebates for energy efficiency projects
- 16,666: "Seniors Ride Free" passes issued
- 1000: Gallon capacity of the cistern at 46th Street Station used to capture stormwater and irrigate the next-door Walnut Hill Community Farm
- 600: Family and friends participating in "Philly Spring Clean-Up" Day
- 243: Number of trees planted across 12 capital projects
- 100: Number of new hybrid-electric buses received (total fleet: 472 of 1400 buses)
- 90th: Headquarters percentile among commercial office buildings under national ENERGYSTAR program
- 44: Participants in SEPTA's inaugural Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program
- $41.33: Price per ton SEPTA will be paid for recyclable materials
- 18: Tons of food collected from passengers and employees during annual food drive
- 7.9: Customer satisfaction rating (Up 10%)
- 4%: Ridership growth
- 4: Farmers markets on SEPTA property
- 2.95: Greenhouse gas emissions SEPTA displaced for every unit it produced
- 1: Number of railroad stations designed "LEED Silver" by the U.S. Green Building Council (SEPTA's Fox Chase Station)
January 20, 2012
By Kristin Geiger
Press Officer, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
Margaret "Peg" Bringhurst and her daughter Barbara Osaid rely on SEPTA regional rail service to take them to one of their favorite places, Reading Terminal Market.
At 101-years old, Mrs. Bringhurst is believed to be SEPTA's oldest rider.
Thanks to SEPTA's Seniors Ride Free* Program, Mrs. Bringhurst can ride the bus for free and take regional rail for $1. SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey and Assistant General Manager of Public & Government Affairs, Francis Kelly recently visited her at the Sunrise Assisted Living Center in Lafayette Hill, Pa. and presented Mrs. Bringhurst with her free ride card.
December 9, 2011
Yesterday, SEPTA received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to significantly reduce air emissions from one of its six diesel-powered maintenance locomotives. The repower project will give the locomotive, originally built in the 1950s, a new lease on life with a state-of-the-art engine technology.
November 23, 2011
Last week, SEPTA netted $6.44 million from two Federal Transit Administration (FTA) discretionary funding programs. The Authority has now received four FY 2011 FTA competitive grants totalling $26.44 million. Together, these funds have helped to solidify SEPTA's position as an industry leader in efforts to utilize sustainable technologies in ways that make its vehicles and infrastructure more efficient.
The two recent awards were part of the FTA's competitive Fiscal Year 2011 Sustainability Initiative, which includes funding from two FTA grant programs: "Clean Fuels" and "TIGGER" (Transit Investment in Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction). According to a U.S. DOT press release, "Clean Fuels Grant recipients were awarded competitively based on the project's ability to help communities achieve or maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and carbon monoxide while supporting emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses." TIGGER funds "were competitively awarded based on the ability of projects to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while providing a return on the investment."
October 21, 2011
Last month, SEPTA took an important step forward in implementing its Sustainability Program by unveiling a comprehensive recycling program at stations on the Broad Street, Market-Frankford, and Trolley Lines. The program will save SEPTA an estimated $103,000 per year in waste disposal costs and generate $67,000 per year in new economic value through a revenue-sharing agreement with its new vendor.
The program has been years in the making. In fact, the City of Philadelphia has had a recycling ordinance since 1994, when Philadelphia's Streets Commissioner approved Commercial Regulations that require recycling in the commercial, residential, institutional and industrial sectors. But not until recently has the City actually enforced this wide-reaching regulation. But now that it is doing so, the City has its highest recycling rates ever. And it's paying off - in the form of reduced costs, increased revenues, and improved environmental performance.
Maintaining SEPTA's "Other" Infrastructure
September 30, 2011
Strategic management programs require a dedicated team of employees to carry the torch. SEPTA is no different, with more than 9,000 employees committed to promoting a culture of excellence, continuous improvement, and innovation across a series of strategic programs - from system safety to customer service to sustainability.
Maintaining such a culture - one that it is conducive to the development and implementation of strategic initiatives that add value to an organization's mission - is a much greater challenge. This is particularly true at an organization like SEPTA, where more than 50 percent of mid- and upper-level management is eligible to retire by 2015. Sustainability, in this case, is rooted in the versatility and well-being of SEPTA's own workforce. Its ongoing capacity to provide the quality of transit service the region deserves depends on its ability to develop a robust pipeline of transit leaders to carry this torch into the future.
September 2, 2011
SEPTA is in the business of sustainability and has built a comprehensive program that integrates strategies to account for its economic, social, and environmental impacts. Through its sustainability program, SEPTA has worked to use this three-pronged "people-planet-prosperity" model to incorporate sustainability into decision-making processes at the organization and, with its partners, to build more sustainable communities across the region.
In the same way, SEPTA is in the business of customer service and has developed a similarly comprehensive plan for that program - in this case, focusing on initiatives that will improve courtesy, communication, convenience, and cleanliness. Adopted in 2009, the SEPTA Customer Service Program has been cited in national publications and helped lead the way to across-the-board gains in its most recent Customer Satisfaction Survey.
August 19, 2011
On August 1, SEPTA received official word: its new Fox Chase Station building had been awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) "Silver" award for New Construction by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). The new station building is America's first railroad station to receive USGBC's LEED Silver designation.
July 29, 2011
As published in: APTA Passenger Transport - July 15, 2011
By Andrew Busch
Press Officer, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is getting "lean" with a business plan that has all the characteristics of a good diet: Reduce unnecessary consumption, eliminate wasteful habits, and maximize energy use to improve short- and long- term health.
These are the values at the core of Lean, SEPTA's initiative to increase productivity and improve customer service with fewer resources. The scope covers all operations-related facilities and offices throughout SEPTA's multi-modal system, which serves nearly one million riders each day throughout the Philadelphia region.
"Lean is a culture change - a change in the way SEPTA does business," said John R. Jamison Jr., SEPTA's Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer and chief Lean architect. "It isn't a tactic or a cost reduction program, it's a new way of thinking and acting for an entire organization."
July 15, 2011
Last summer, SEPTA partnered with Conshohocken (PA)-based smart grid firm Viridity Energy on implementing a new strategy to cost-effectively reduce SEPTA's energy consumption. SEPTA and Viridity applied for a grant from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA) to pilot a "wayside energy storage" technology at a substation on the Market-Frankford Line in the Kensington Section of North Philadelphia. The energy storage device would capture, store, and reuse electricity generated from braking trains, improving energy efficiency and reducing demand along this important corridor.
With a $900,000 grant from PEDA in hand, the pilot project is now moving forward. After nearly one year, SEPTA and Viridity are in the process of planning its demonstration phase, which has received national recognition for its innovative integration of emerging smart grid technology with aging transit infrastructure. If successful, the project could have a potentially transformative impact on both industries.
July 8, 2011
SEPTA's Sustainability Program is a framework for implementing new and innovative solutions to age-old problems. But advancing an agenda of economic prosperity, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship in an era of budgetary constraints and limited resources requires proactive planning and creative approaches for implementation. Recognizing this, a component of SEPTA's Sustainability Program implementation strategy will focus on management systems - squeezing more out of less by making institutional processes more efficient.
Today, we'll describe one way that SEPTA is institutionalizing sustainability in this way: the development and implementation of an "Environmental Management System."
Implementing SEPTA's Sustainability Program
July 1, 2011
As SEPTA moves into the implementation phase of its Sustainability Program, the organization's well-established expertise in industry best management practices will serve as an important resource. SEPTA's versatile workforce will allow the organization to seamlessly incorporate emerging sustainability principles into strategic planning processes.
How are sustainability principles changing approaches to transit management? In many cases, traditional management approaches, which have emphasized consistency and narrow, near-term measures of efficiency, are being complemented - and in some cases replaced - with more forward-thinking management approaches that emphasize lifecycle analysis and broader, longer-term measures of regional impact. For SEPTA's part, a strong and versatile management team enables a seamless transition to this more progressive line of thinking, remaining at the vanguard of transit management practices as sustainability becomes a more central corporate objective.
June 24, 2011
Like many other transit agencies across the nation, SEPTA faces major budget challenges due to declining government funding and the sheer expanse and age of SEPTA's infrastructure. While SEPTA recovers nearly one-half of its operating costs from passenger revenue and additional revenue sources including advertising, naming rights, sales of scrap material, and other investments, the Authority depends on government assistance for the remainder of its operating budget and for its entire capital budget.
June 17, 2011
Countless studies in recent years have ranked SEPTA's operating efficiency among the top transit agencies in the United States. Among them, a seminal report submitted in 2006 to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Transportation Committee featured a soup-to-nuts audit of SEPTA's operations, administration, management, and finances. It found:
"The management team at SEPTA is dedicated, highly experienced, and focused on important issues. They know the technical side of their business very well. The review team met person after person whose knowledge and commitment are as strong as any we have seen in the industry. ... One aspect of SEPTA's staff strength is the cost consciousness that seems to be inbred into so many of the managers. Perhaps it is the result of many years of living close to the edge. The review team met many people who spend the public's money as if it were their own. The report provides data that demonstrates that SEPTA's unit costs are quite reasonable and moderate when compared to others in the industry."
June 10, 2011
Pennsylvania's infrastructure is crumbling. Across the state, underfunded and aging transportation, education, water, and waste facilities have fallen into a general state of disrepair.
But according to the 2010 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Report Card for Pennsylvania's Infrastructure, the condition of its transit infrastructure is in the worst shape of all. ASCE awarded transit a "D-", reflecting an average rating of 41-69 percent of infrastructure in good condition or better. The report cited increasing transit use - but decreasing funding - as a reason for its downgrade from transit "D" grade in ASCE's 2006 Report Card.
May 13, 2011
From an economic perspective, one way that SEPTA promotes prosperity is by mitigating congestion. In a 2005 US Census American Community Survey (ACS) estimate of longest average commute-to-work times, Greater Philadelphia (29.4 minutes) ranked fifth among large cities (population: 250,000 or more). The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) 2009 Urban Mobility Report found that annual hours of delay in the Philadelphia metropolitan area more than doubled between 1982 and 2007, costing the region 112 million hours, 71 million gallons of fuel, and $2.3 billion in economic productivity.
According to TTI, transit emerges as a valuable solution to this problem: in 2007 public transportation saved Greater Philadelphia 23 million hours and $473 million in economic productivity from its contribution to regional mobility.
May 6, 2011
SEPTA pays out hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for capital projects each year. These projects support tens of thousands of regional jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in earnings, and billions of dollars in regional economic impact.
SEPTA carries out this important role as economic catalyst in a socially responsible way. As recipients of federally designated grant funding, transit agencies are required to adhere to equitable contracting practices. SEPTA's compliance with these federal regulations is overseen by its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program, which establishes goals for the proportion of SEPTA's capital contracts to be awarded to small business owned by minorities and/or women. Aggregate goals for DBE participation are based on a weighted average of sector-specific goals and are updated once every three years based on anticipated projects and number of DBE eligible firms.
April 29, 2011
SEPTA is committed to building Greater Philadelphia's next generation of transit leadership. With a workforce of more than 9,000 employees, SEPTA is one of the largest employers in Greater Philadelphia. SEPTA's size, coupled with the specialized skill-sets required of many positions, demands proactive planning to ensure that SEPTA adequately recruits, trains, and retains a crop of skilled professionals that will serve as a pipeline of emerging talent for future positions of leadership.
Already, SEPTA has taken strides to improve the stability and versatility of its existing workforce. Turnover rates among operators, which compose nearly half of SEPTA's workforce, have historically been a drain on budget resources and employee retention challenge. In early 2009, new hire operator turnover was hovering around 25 percent. Later that year, SEPTA's Strategic Business Plan highlighted the mitigation of operator turnover as a corporate objective. In the last six months of 2009, new hire operator turnover fell to 10.4 percent, and remained relatively low for the first six months of 2010 (13.3 percent) and second six months of 2010 (16.5 percent).
April 22, 2011
Last week, we reviewed how transit can improve access to food and contribute to the development of more livable communities. Today, we'll describe how SEPTA's Sustainability Program is acting on these interconnected goals - food access and livability - to ensure that all regional residents - including its own employees - have access to fresh local foods.
SEPTA's recognition of this connection between food access and transit planning process recently received accolades from the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), which honored Philadelphia as one of the Top-Seven "Smarter Cities" for Transportation.
April 15, 2011
"Environmental sustainability, access, and our collective well-being must combine with mobility and safety as the cornerstones of our transportation investments. The following report represents an important contribution to our emerging understanding of the connections between transportation and public health and is an invaluable resource for policymakers and all those interested in building healthy communities. With a greater recognition of the strong linkage between public health and transportation, I believe we can build a network that supports our mobility and creates access and economic strength while promoting equity, sustaining our good health and quality of life."
- Representative Jim Oberstar, referencing the Healthy, Equitable Transportation Policy Report released by the PolicyLink, Prevention Institute and Convergence Partnership
Transit connects people to the other people, places, and things that shape their lives in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible way. With its sprawling network of trains, buses, and trolleys, SEPTA provides residents of Greater Philadelphia with access to fresh food, reducing the region's carbon footprint while supporting the economic vitality and overall livability of the communities it serves.
April 8, 2011
Greater Philadelphia grew up around its transit system. It has, in large part, aged around its highways. The result is an increasingly decentralized region where many older, transit-oriented communities have become less economically competitive. SEPTA's social sustainability agenda is about changing this dynamic - reinvigorating the connection between the regional transit system and the communities it serves.
From SEPTA's perspective, the dispersion of regional development creates two inter-related sustainability challenges: first, to support the revitalization of older transit-oriented communities; and second, to provide competitive mobility alternatives to newer auto-oriented communities that were largely built in the second half of the 20th century without transit in mind.
Regardless of how global forces impact future development patterns, the impact of 20th century sprawl will continue to impact the context of sustainability planning deep into the 21st century. SEPTA's ability to serve as a regional sustainability solution for Greater Philadelphia's communities, both new and old, will be defined by its approach to these two issues.
April 1, 2011
For SEPTA, waste handling is an industry that costs millions of dollars per year. The wide variety of waste streams that result from the scale and diversity of SEPTA's day-to-day operations requires a comprehensive approach to management and operational control. SEPTA's Sustainability Program establishes a framework for developing a strategy to manage these waste streams in a more economically efficient and environmentally friendly way.
March 25, 2011
While SEPTA's award-winning 1234 Market Street headquarters is perhaps the best example of its proactive approach to energy demand management and conservation, it is just one of several components that make up the organization's strategy for improving the efficiency of its facilities and vehicles. SEPTA's Sustainability Program will build upon 1234 Market Street's success to drive a system-wide rollout of energy efficiency initiatives.
As described in the March 11 journal entry ("SEPTA's Energy Portfolio"), several investments already underway have begun to improve the efficiency of SEPTA's energy portfolio - most notably, the purchase of more fuel efficient hybrid buses, the incorporation of regenerative braking technology, and the retrofitting of stations and maintenance facilities. Several new initiatives in the pipeline promise to accelerate efficiency gains and reduce SEPTA's monthly spending on utilities. A sample of these potential investments is outlined below.
March 18, 2011
Perhaps the best example of SEPTA's proactive approach to strategic energy management is found at its headquarters at 1234 Market Street in Center City. Over the past two decades, SEPTA has made a series of investments in the building that have transformed an energy-hogging, 1970s-vintage commercial office building into a shining example of 21st century energy efficient design. In December, these efforts were recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which awarded SEPTA its prestigious ENERGY STAR label for 2010, a year in which 1234 Market Street ranked in the top 10 percent for building energy performance nationwide.
Improving building energy performance has saved SEPTA hundreds of thousands of dollars. Between 2008 and 2009, SEPTA reduced its energy consumption at the building by more than 2 million kilowatt hours, a single-year efficiency gain of 9.7 percent translated into dollar savings totaling $104,143.
How did SEPTA so quickly transform an outdated energy hog into a national model of energy efficiency? Many years of strategic investments coupled with a small yet enormously impactful policy change.
March 11, 2011
Transportation is an energy-intensive business. According to the World Resources Institute, the transportation sector accounts for 40 percent of the United States' total energy consumption - larger than industry (26 percent), residential (17 percent), and commercial (12 percent). And, as our February 18 post on SEPTA's greenhouse gas inventory pointed out, this energy consumption is largely fossil fuel-based, making the transportation sector a key driver in the United States' total and per capita GHG emissions.
For SEPTA, energy consumption is driven by the fuel and power needed to run its vehicles and operate its facilities. In 2009, SEPTA consumed 4.5 million mmBtu of energy - 55 percent from vehicle fuel (diesel and gasoline), 38 percent from electricity (propulsion and lighting), and seven percent from building heat (natural gas, heating oil, and steam). Between 2006 and 2009, SEPTA's energy use increased by an average of 1.5 percent per year, a relatively modest growth rate considering expanded service levels. And yet, with a newly deregulated electricity market and rising fuel prices, energy consumption is an increasing challenge to not only its environmental performance but also its fiscal stability.
Over the next three weeks, we'll describe the proactive steps that SEPTA is already taking to prepare for a world of higher energy prices. Projects underway have begun to improve energy efficiency and reduce the energy intensity of SEPTA's vehicles and buildings. A series of planned projects will further reduce energy demand and improve sustainability performance - both from an environmental and economic perspective.
March 4, 2011
As we consider SEPTA's overall environmental footprint, it is important to remember that its impacts extend beyond climate change and air quality. The services that SEPTA provides to the region - and the facilities that support those services - also consume resources that factor into its environmental impacts. Today, we describe one of those resources: water.
For years, scientists and policy experts have predicted water to become "the next oil" - a resource whose scarcity has been known to developing nations for years, but is only now reaching the point of crisis in the developed world. In 2007, the city of Atlanta got a first-hand view of this crisis when Lake Lanier, the region's primary water supply, dropped to its lowest levels in a century. Most agree that, given the combination of shifting climate patterns and soaring demand from emerging global economies, water scarcity is problem that is not going away.
February 25, 2011
Last week's post demonstrated the extent to which SEPTA reduces regional greenhouse gas emissions by taking cars off the road, reducing congestion, and supporting energy efficient, transit-oriented development. These functions make SEPTA one of the region's most valuable assets in mitigating and adapting to global climate change.
But climate change is just one area in which SEPTA is working to improve the region's environmental performance. This week, we'll describe SEPTA's efforts to improve regional air quality by reducing criteria air pollutant emissions from its combustion engine vehicles.
SEPTA's Greenhouse Gas Inventory (Goal 1)
February 18, 2011
Transportation is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States, also far outpacing any other industrialized country in the world. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), energy consumed by the U.S. transportation sector is highly carbon intensive, accounting for nearly one-third of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And it's growing: between 1990 and 2006, GHG emissions from U.S. transportation grew 27 percent, compared to just 15 percent across all sectors.
Mass transit is a solution to this growing problem. For transit, GHG emissions produced by diesel-burning motor buses, electricity-consuming trolleys and trains, and the operation of facilities is offset by the displacement of GHG emissions by taking cars off the road, reducing congestion, and supporting energy-efficient, transit-oriented development. Goal 1 of SEP-TAINABLE is to improve upon SEPTA's already impressive track record in this regard by expanding its role in displacing GHG emissions across the region.
SEP-TAINABLE: The Route to Regional Sustainability
February 11, 2011
Over the past two weeks, we've set the context for SEPTA's sustainability program by taking a look at various byproducts of our "fast and ever-changing world." Shifting development patterns, policies, and demographics have created an increasingly uncertain operating environment. Transit agencies must take proactive measures to be prepared. Those that plan ahead will be ready to confront new obstacles and opportunities that arise. Those that don't will fall behind.
This week, we describe our response to these challenges: SEP-TAINABLE, a comprehensive strategy for SEPTA to proactively prepare for any future scenario that comes its way.
Redefining SEPTA's Role for 21st Century Sustainability
February 4, 2011
Last week, we took a look back at how 20th century sprawl eroded SEPTA's competitiveness as a regional transportation mode of choice. This week, we look forward to the emerging 21st century trends and how they might shape SEPTA's future.
Demographic shifts are beginning to have a profound impact on the competitiveness of transit as a mode of choice. The gradual aging of the American population, combined with an emerging generation of highly mobile and tech savvy young adults, is changing the ways in which transit is used and perceived. The net result is a heightened standard for "quality of service" that will challenge transit agencies deep into the 21st century.
Two features define this heightened standard more than any other: access and integration.
Sustainability in a "Fast and Ever-Changing World"
January 28, 2011
Last week, we described how at SEPTA sustainability is not about "going green." It is a strategic imperative. Only through proactive sustainability planning will SEPTA be able to confront the economic, social, and environmental challenges facing the organization and region. These challenges are far too great to allow external influences to determine our fate.
How great? A May 2010 Harvard Business Review article makes the case that these challenges are nothing short of generational, and that sustainability is in fact an emerging "mega-trend" that will serve as a determining factor in the viability of organizations for years to come:
"Most executives know that how they respond to the challenge of sustainability will profoundly affect the competitiveness - and perhaps even the survival - of their organizations. Yet most are flailing around, launching a hodgepodge of initiatives without any overarching vision or plan. That's not because they don't see sustainability as a strategic issue. Rather, it's because they think they're facing an unprecedented journey for which there is no road map."
SEP-TAINABLE is our road map, a guide for SEPTA to navigate the evolutionary and iterative process that sustainability planning represents. Over time, this process will help build the organizational capacity to ensure long-term competitiveness for both SEPTA and its region.
January 21, 2011
On January 27, the SEPTA Board formally adopted SEPTA's first-ever sustainability plan. The document, entitled SEP-TAINABLE: The Route to Regional Sustainability, represents SEPTA's comprehensive strategy and enduring commitment to become a more economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable organization.
But why plan for sustainability? And why now?
In fact, at SEPTA we believe there has never been a better time to plan for sustainability. As the calendar turns to 2011, lingering economic uncertainty and accelerating environmental degradation continue to touch every corner of the world. Heighted concerns over financial stability, resource scarcity, and national security cloud hopes for recovery. Locally, persistent unemployment and funding shortages have created fiscal deficits that threaten critically important projects and programs, at SEPTA and elsewhere.