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Sustainable Mass Transit

By: , Posted on: June 23, 2017

public transit trolley

Public train and bus transportation in the U.S has set a great example, since the turn of the 21st century, in how to include sustainability elements within an entire industry. Mass transit is the best solution to help the world combat climate change, and improve existing air quality as it helps reduce toxic emissions and greenhouse gases by lessening car usage. Transportation professionals such as engineers, architects, planners, and many others have been involved with creating big changes, by participating in sustainability projects and programs.

As an inherently sustainable entity, public mass transportation has been at the forefront of the modern sustainability movement, with mass transit a best practice leader in many areas including engineering design, construction, and operations.  Transit agencies have continually added initiatives to save natural resources and energy, prevent pollution and reduce greenhouse gases, and has set numerous examples of ways to be more sustainable, including the addition of special elements in design and construction projects that limit environmental damage.

Chapter Download: Sustainable Mass Transit

Since mass transit’s early years of horse drawn carriages on rails, trolley cars and coal burning steam locomotives, urban public train and bus operations, from the inception have had to operate within, above and below the natural and built environments. As trains moved to an electrified system requiring on-demand electricity and subway tunnels, technological advancements have helped make transit service better in terms of energy consumption.  Mass transit is a large consumer of energy, specifically electricity and diesel fuel, and this energy use produces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Mass transit and energy are connected, and have been since the inception of the first electric street car.

Electricity, which is still two thirds being derived from the burning of fossil fuels in the U.S., and diesel fuel makes up the traditional core energy that helps transport millions of people in public mass transportation systems. Energy is a major aspect of transit, and the use of energy is the aspect with the most ability to adversely impact the environment. Mass transit helps cities use less energy, especially in the cities which could be dominated by the single automobile driver lifestyle. When transit agencies save energy, while providing the same level of service or increases efficiency, it contributes to a healthier planet.

U.S. transit agencies in the past decade have demonstrated numerous samples of sustainable distinction. Capital projects and rolling stock purchases, in the past decade have led to more sustainable train and bus service. Many mass transit agencies adopted sustainable programs and processes, while continuing to provide transportation to millions of people.  The story of how mass transit, as an entire sector, grew as an industry to rapidly include sustainability into its everyday thinking is presented in my book, Sustainable Mass Transit: Challenges and Opportunities in Urban Public Transportation.

The history, evolution and progress of mass transit over the past century can be defined as continuous improvement through knowledge sharing and advanced technologies. Environmental consciousness has emerged as a component of mass transit.  U.S. transit agencies have set an excellent model of how to reduce energy consumption, conserve natural resources, save water, prevent pollution and reduce carbon footprint, all while maintaining robust operations and moving millions of people each day.

Thomas Abdallah has more than 30 years’ experience in the environmental and transportation fields. He is Deputy Vice President & Chief Environmental Engineer for New York City Transit and an Adjunct Professor in Columbia University’s Sustainability Management graduate program.

sustainable mass transit

His new book, Sustainable Mass Transit: Challenges and Opportunities in Urban Public Transportation, examines the numerous types of mass transit systems, looking closely at all their key functions, including operations, maintenance, development, design, building and retrofitting. We are pleased to offer you a complimentary chapter from the book called “Sustainable Mass Transit,” below:

Chapter Download: Sustainable Mass Transit

If you found this chapter interesting, you can read more online via ScienceDirect here. If you would prefer to order a print or e-copy, visit the Elsevier store here. Apply discount code STC317 at checkout and receive 30% off the list price and free global shipping.

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