Sustainability Annual Report Released

January 23, 2013

Chronicles Progress Towards Performance Targets

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

This week, SEPTA released its second Sustainability Annual Report. The report, entitled 'SEP-TAINABLE: Empowering Action," chronicles a year of progress towards SEPTA's goal to become an industry leader and regional partner in a comprehensive triple bottom line (environmental-social-economic) sustainability agenda.

The year was highlighted by hosting the APTA Sustainability & Public Transportation Workshop, which was held in Philadelphia for the first time. The event brought industry representatives from across North America to the region for three days in August to sample local sustainability initiatives and hear from experts on industry-wide achievements.

The conference was an opportunity for SEPTA to demonstrate its commitment to the triple bottom line, and to environmental, social, and economic initiatives that advanced regional sustainability. The annual report details these efforts, cited by APTA in awarding SEPTA its 2012 "Outstanding Public Transportation System." A summary of 2012 progress is outlined below.

Environmental

Strides were taken to improve environmental stewardship, highlighted by a first-ever "Energy Action Plan" published in November. The cost-constrained plan targets 18 discrete initiatives seek to reduce SEPTA's energy consumption by 2.8 percent, associated greenhouse gas emissions by 12.3 percent, and save more than $2.2 million annually without any outlay in additional capital funding. That standard will be achieved through projects that leverage cost savings, grants, new sources of revenue, and no-cost operational modifications.

A climate adaptation initiative, funded by a grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), was piloted in partnership with ICF International to study the long-term effects of global climate change on SEPTA's system and services. The pilot study focuses on the Manayunk/Norristown Line, which parallels the Schuylkill River and has become acutely vulnerable to intense river flooding - 10 of the 18 highest recorded river crests have occurred within the last 10 years - and stormwater runoff from impervious development.

A recycling program, piloted in 2011, was brought to scale. Now, single-stream source-separated recycling is available at all passenger stations on the Broad Street, Market-Frankford, and Trolley Lines, Center City Rail Stations, Philadelphia International Airport train platforms, and all SEPTA employee locations. Rebates for recycling will be credited against the cost of SEPTA's hauling contract, resulting in cost savings associated with the reduction of landfilled waste.

Social

Investments in transit-oriented development reinvigorated the historic connection between the region's transit system and its communities. Renovations of historic bus loops at 33rd & Dauphin in the Strawberry Mansion section of North Philadelphia and 50th & Parkside in West Philadelphia highlighted SEPTA's investment, which was matched by private sector investments such as the $48 million mixed use development at Temple University Station.

Farmers markets hosted by SEPTA improved access to local, fresh food. For the second consecutive year, SEPTA hosted three station markets - at Frankford Transportation Center in Northeast Philadelphia, Olney Transportation Center in North Philadelphia, and 46th Street Station in West Philadelphia - as well as one at 1234 Market Street, SEPTA's headquarters in Center City Philadelphia. Programs were also developed to provide nutrition education and awareness to SEPTA employees.

Workforce development initiatives continued to build momentum as SEPTA prepares for a wave of retirements in the near future. A 57 percent increase in attendance at management training programs highlighted progress, while participation in the now-annual Philly Spring Clean-Up Day and Philabundance Food Drive continues to build a culture of volunteerism. Proactive outreach to women- and minority-owned businesses through the DBE Program Office continues to extend the benefits of workforce development initiatives to the broader regional business community.

Economic

Another strong year of ridership growth in the face of lingering economic uncertainty reflects the success of SEPTA's service initiatives and its enduring value to the regional economy. Public transit's share of commute-to-work trips inched up, and ridership is now at a 23-year high (339.4 million trips in 2012), thanks in large part to dramatic system improvements associated with the completion of 32 projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This infusion of capital, plus the introduction of Silverliner V regional railcars into the fleet, also helped improve infrastructure state of good repair.

But while ridership is at a 23-year high, capital funding is at a 15-year low. The loss of more than $100 million from Pennsylvania Act 44, plus the sunsetting of $191 million from ARRA, has resulted in a precipitous decline in capital funding available for state of good repair, normal replacement, or system improvement. SEPTA's capital budget of $303 million for 2013 is less than one-half of the annual funding required to achieve a system-wide state of good repair, and with each passing year, SEPTA's backlog of $5 billion in capital need continues to grow.

A Commitment to Continual Improvement

The theme of the Sustainability Annual Report, and the thread that ties together the initiatives that are summarized within it, is that sustainability is not about a policy platform, or even about the triple bottom line. It is about creating a culture that understands resource constraints but values innovation, one that appreciates complexity but empowers action.

This annual report details SEPTA's role in empowering action over the past year. But just as importantly, it reinforces a steadfast commitment to continual improvement. Sustainability is not a project but a process, and the program embraces the notion that performance can only be improved by constantly reevaluating progress over time. The report represents an appraisal of progress to-date, and goals for the year to come.

As always, feedback is appreciated. Any questions or comments should be directed to sustainability@septa.org.