SUSTAINABILITY AT PIERCE TRANSIT
Sustainable transit reduces a community’s environmental footprint from transportation and enhances its quality of life by making travel more enjoyable, affordable and timely. At Pierce Transit sustainability is a core value, addressed in terms of both the services we provide and how we operate.
Pierce Transit plays a key role in reducing the number of single-occupant vehicles on the road and the pollution they generate. In 2019, our customers skipped 9.3 million car trips, taking Pierce Transit buses, paratransit rides or Vanpools instead. Pierce Transit’s commitment to sustainability is reflected throughout the conception, planning, design, construction and operation of our system. We believe sustainability practices must make good business, public, and environmental sense by balancing the community's economic, social and environmental needs.
The APTA Sustainability Pledge
Pierce Transit has pledged to adopt sustainable business practices and strategies. We track, measure and report progress. We administer these practices on an ongoing basis to continually improve them over time. As a signatory to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Sustainability Commitment, Pierce Transit actively supports and responsibly serves our community.
Executive Order No. 1
Read an overview of actions we take agency wide to reduce, reuse and recycle.
Download to view Pierce Transit's commitment to sustainability.
Dedicated Green Team
Pierce Transit’s Green Team comprises representatives from a variety of departments including Data Analytics, Marketing, Communications, Maintenance, Safety & Training, Community Development, ADA Eligibility and Planning. The goal of the Green Team is to establish sustainability outcomes for the agency and develop best practices, benchmarks and data collection protocol to measure outcome attainment.
Data collection protocol includes:
- Identify potential areas of improvement
- Develop matrices to measure data
- Increase employee awareness of PT sustainability practices, as well as awareness in community
- Quantify results to demonstrate success, areas needing further development
We believe that making sustainable strides benefits all by expanding regional connections, helping improve local air quality and enhancing our brand.
The majority of Pierce Transit’s buses run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) which offers lower emissions than diesel or standard fuel. Pierce Transit now has nine battery electric buses in its fleet: three Proterra and six GILLIG. These zero-emission buses offer a smooth, quiet ride and save on fuel costs and tailpipe emissions.
In 2018, Pierce Transit approved a vehicle idling policy intended to protect the health of our employees, passengers, and communities; conserve fuel, reduce pollution and harmful effects to the environment; prevent premature engine wear, and minimize operating costs. This policy applies to every Pierce Transit-owned vehicle. Here’s a summary of what it covers:
- Pierce Transit vehicles will not be parked with the engine operating for more than five minutes unless it is essential for the performance of work.
- This limit applies to all Pierce Transit vehicles, unless the vehicle is idling under specific circumstances to be clarified by supervisors (including outdoor temperature extremes).
- In cases where the operator must leave the vehicle and interior and/or clearance lights must remain ON, certain rules apply.
- offsets some of its own carbon footprint; and
- saves around 1,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas on an annual basis.
SOURCING OUR FUEL
Pierce Transit currently purchases its compressed natural gas (CNG) through a distributor, United Energy Trading, on the open market. As the market fluctuates, so does the price of gas per therm (a unit of heat equivalent). By purchasing several years’ worth of gas at a time, Pierce Transit was able to lock in a reduced rate at a third of what the market averages right now. As good stewards of public funds, Pierce Transit seeks such opportunities to reduce costs.
Currently, market price of gas is 90 cents per therm, and Pierce Transit pays 30 cents per therm, significantly saving the agency money and allowing it to reinvest a portion of those savings to The Francis Beidler Forest Project (a forest management concern) to reduce overall carbon footprint.
What is Pierce Transit’s carbon footprint?
There are different methods used to calculate the carbon footprint of a transit agency. Carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by an entity’s actions. Some agencies use the number of vehicles in their fleet, how much fuel is used for those vehicles, and the cost of utilities that support the vehicle operation.
Pierce Transit has chosen to take a more comprehensive approach that includes not only fleet vehicles but commute trips taken by employees in personal vehicles and in vanpools and carpools. Considering not only the operations of the agency but the associated travel made by its employees gives a more holistic picture of resource use. Calculating the agency’s true carbon footprint, and planning ways to reduce that footprint, captures all aspects of service.
Pierce Transit's Carbon Footprint Evaluation
To that end, Pierce Transit is working with an industry expert to examine data we currently collect on resource use and process that to establish the carbon footprint baseline. Having a clear understanding of the starting point then empowers the agency to make smart decisions on what bus specifications, bus types, and other resources to procure. That is where reinvesting a portion of fuel savings comes into play.
Responsibly Sourced Natural Gas
In late 2021, Pierce Transit began transitioning its vehicles that operate on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to Responsibly Sourced Gas, or RSG. This gas is mined, and during the mining process, there are greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emitted. These emissions impact the air we breathe and therefore have a carbon footprint associated with them. Responsibly sourced natural gas comes from mines that offset GHG created during the mining process with other sustainable practices.
In purchasing responsibly-sourced gas, Pierce Transit:
While some would argue that using RSG is not a perfect process, it is far cleaner than running buses on diesel. In addition, each bus – regardless of its fuel source – takes potentially dozens of single occupancy vehicles off the road, which further reduces carbon output.
Pierce Transit is also investigating using renewable natural gas (RNG). This gas comes from dairy farms or landfills that produce methane. This gas costs more, but the advantage is that it offsets exhaust emissions. By using this fuel, Pierce Transit would effectively operate with a neutral carbon footprint. Effective January 1, 2023, the State of Washington will give companies carbon credits for using renewable natural gas.
Moving to responsibly-sourced and eventually renewable natural gas represents another step taken toward making Pierce Transit services sustainable.
Pierce Transit has installed LED lighting at Tacoma Dome Station parking garages, transit centers, and at headquarters on our bus lot. This new lighting provides brighter illumination, movement- and daylight-sensitive fixtures to reduce time lit, and lower utility bills.
With efficiency and sustainability in mind, Pierce Transit provides Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (EVs) to employees for use when travelling to meetings or running agency errands. There are charging stations set aside for these cars at our headquarters. We also recently installed electric vehicle charging stations for employees to charge their personal vehicles; these are very popular and encourage employees to go electric.
Hybrid electric vanpool vehicles are now part of our fleet, available for community use. Tacoma Public Utilities partnered with Pierce Transit to become the first recipient of 8 plug-in Vanpool vans for their employees.
Large mixed recycling bins are provided around our headquarters, in high-use areas, and each employee is offered a small desk-side bin for daily collection. Employees are reminded of which items to recycle and which to throw away.
In order to encourage recycling efforts in our Maintenance department, bins are placed throughout the shop, near the offices and break room.
Fluids used in the operation of our buses and fleet vehicles, along with materials used for parts and repairs, are recycled. Cardboard boxes and packaging materials from our parts warehouse are, too.
Water used in our bus wash is also recycled. The water is collected and processed through a filtration system. The only water wasted is that remaining on the coaches when they leave the bus wash.
Our agency avoids purchasing water or other beverages in single-use plastic bottles whenever possible.
Those teams that work out in the community during summer months are provided with insulated cooler jugs they can refill with water throughout the day.
Maintenance staff have large coolers of water and Gatorade available at several stations in their shops. Bus operators are provided with reusable bottles and cups and the Employee Wellness Committee awards insulated water bottles and other containers to employees who participate in wellness challenges.
Filtered water bottle filling stations are available throughout our headquarters and, as of year-end 2021, have saved using 54,309 plastic bottles.