Natural Environment includes goals that focus on improving energy efficiency, reducing GHG emissions, improving water efficiency, reducing waste and mitigating potentially negative effects of stormwater through the installation of green stormwater infrastructure. Environmental goals support SEPTA’s core business while challenging ourselves to continually be better stewards of the natural environment.
The following goals and targets are summarized from SEP-TAINABLE 2020, and will be updated in a subsequent planning effort that is currently underway.
Reduce SEPTA’s Carbon Footprint
Decrease Normalized GHG Emissions by 20% by 2020
SEPTA is a net reducer of transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which contribute to global climate change by trapping heat and making the planet warmer. SEPTA produces GHG emissions in daily vehicle and heating operations; however, by moving people on more efficient, lower carbon modes than automobiles, SEPTA is a key tool in regional efforts to reduce GHG.
SEPTA aims to minimize its emissions while maintaining high-quality service and increasing ridership, with a goal of reducing emissions by 20% by 2020 from baseline year 2014. SEPTA measures progress toward this goal on a per-passenger-mile basis. Normalizing emissions in this way ensures efforts to reduce GHG emissions are tied back to SEPTA’s core business of moving people. SEPTA made significant gains in reducing overall emissions since the baseline year; declining ridership held the percent decrease in normalized GHG emissions to approximately 3%.
Transit is inherently sustainable as a transportation mode by shifting transportation away from private automobiles, providing congestion relief, and supporting dense, compact land uses. In calendar year (CY) 2018, SEPTA prevented 2,516,416,821 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions that otherwise would have occurred if SEPTA riders had instead traveled by a single-occupancy vehicle.
By reducing the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road, SEPTA’s services simultaneously provide congestion relief and reduce idling time in high-traffic conditions. Additionally, SEPTA’s high-capacity service produces what is known as the “multiplier effect,” which increases density and reduces dependence on private vehicle use.
Improve Energy Efficiency
Decrease Normalized Energy Consumption by 10% by 2020
SEPTA uses energy for every aspect of its operations-from powering railcars and buses to heating facilities and illuminating track signals. Efficient energy use can help SEPTA manage increasing energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy generation and use. SEPTA is working to increase energy efficiency and decrease energy consumption by transitioning to lower-carbon forms of energy that reduce greenhouse gases and implementing energy efficiency measures throughout our facilities.
From baseline year FY2015 to FY2019, SEPTA reduced its gross energy consumption by 230,837 mmBtu, from 4,206,252 mmBtu to 3,975,415 mmBtu. Normalized energy consumption per passenger mile increased from FY2015 to FY2019 by approximately 2% due to decreased ridership.
SEPTA will continue to reduce its energy consumption with initiatives summarized in this section and in its 2018 Energy Action Plan, while growing ridership to meet its 2020 goal for energy consumption per passenger mile travelled.
SEPTA’s energy consumption profile is roughly split between electrically powered vehicles and diesel- or gasoline-powered buses. SEPTA has been able to significantly reduce energy consumption by investing in energy-efficient fleets, such as trains and locomotives with regenerative braking and wayside energy storage, and buses with hybrid- and battery-electric drives.
Improve Water Efficiency
Decrease Normalized Water Consumption by 25% by 2020
Water is an essential part of SEPTA’s operations, from bus washers to passenger bathrooms. Clean, fresh water is a limited resource and SEPTA recognizes our responsibility to use the region’s water sources efficiently and sustainably. SEPTA aims to decrease freshwater consumption by using water responsibly, implementing water efficiency projects, and seeking opportunities to use alternative water sources in our operations. By using less freshwater in our operations, we can help to protect limited freshwater sources, and reduce utility bills.
SEPTA’s gross water consumption increased in FY2019. SEPTA has over 300 water accounts that service many types of locations – from station buildings to bus washers. A goal for SEPTA’s Sustainability program is to identify accounts that have inconsistent or high usage to understand how SEPTA can incorporate water conservation measures.
Reduce Stormwater Runoff
Increase Green Acreage by 25 Acres by 2020
In SEPTA’s service area, there are both separate sewer systems and combined sewer systems. Green acreage and stormwater management infrastructure reduce the amount of water that enters sewer systems.
SEPTA supports efforts to mitigate the impact of stormwater runoff by retrofitting its facilities to slow the flow, thereby easing the burden on sewer systems. SEPTA partners with the City of Philadelphia and municipalities across the region to incorporate stormwater management features into capital projects wherever possible. Between FY2015 and FY2019, SEPTA greened 17.1 acres of land to reduce the impact of stormwater runoff.
Trees are a tool for beautification, carbon sequestration, and stormwater runoff mitigation. One mature tree can intercept approximately 1,000 gallons of water annually. In 2019, SEPTA planted 22 trees at Wynnefield Ave Station and 6 trees at Ambler Station, bringing the total placed since 2008 to 1,352. SEPTA will continue to plant as many trees as possible within the footprint of capital projects.
Reduce & Reuse Waste
- Reach a 25% Diversion Rate for Waste Produced by Passengers at Stations by 2020
- Reach an 80% Diversion Rate for Waste Produced by Employees at Facilities by 2020
SEPTA aims to minimize the amount of waste generated at passenger stations, facilities, and construction sites, and maximize the amount of that waste that is reused or recycled. Recycling avoids filling landfills, decreases pollution, and reduces life-cycle energy and raw material use.
SEPTA has established two waste management goals: one for waste produced by passengers at stations, and one for waste produced by employees at facilities and construction sites. The goals are expressed as diversion rates, or the percentage of total waste that is reused or recycled.
In FY2019, both the passenger and employee diversion rates decreased significantly from previous years. This was due in part to tightened standards for contamination in response to changes in the global recycling market. If SEPTA hopes to sustain the gains made in previous years, it is imperative that both passengers and employees “recycle right.” Additionally, SEPTA needs to continually audit work procedures to identify opportunities to reduce waste.
SEPTA will continue to support recycling programs at facilities, seek new ways to reduce and reuse its waste products, and improve recycling accessibility for passengers. SEPTA is proud that educational outreach and investments in combo waste and recycling units have produced significant growth in both employee and passenger recycling rates to date.