This article was contributed by Lani Ho
Following its declaration of a climate emergency in February, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is proud to present its most comprehensive Sustainability Plan yet, which was approved by the Board of Directors at its June 4, 2020 meeting. The Sustainability Plan outlines key performance indicators with short-term and stretch targets for greenhouse gas emissions, criteria air pollutants, building energy, fleet energy, water usage, and waste diversion.
VTA is nationally recognized as a champion of environmental sustainability. The agency earned gold-level status by the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Sustainability Commitment in 2016. Over the last decade, the agency has improved efficiency and conserved resources by retrofitting equipment, installing solar, and replacing vehicles. These efforts cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in half and reduced air pollutants by 70 percent.
The Sustainability Plan serves as a road map to guide VTA’s actions through Fiscal Year 2040. To meet the targets, VTA will need to transition all of its transit buses to zero-emission, consider upgrading to 100 percent renewable energy sources for electricity used to power light rail and facilities, and substantially increase its use of non-potable water. Embracing technology to optimize energy use and improve efficiency will also be a necessary focus.
“Sustainable practices are at the core of VTA’s mission to provide transportation solutions,” said Nuria Fernandez, GM/CEO of VTA and APTA Chair. “It is fundamental to how we do business and innovate the way Silicon Valley moves.”
VTA’s newest facilities include the Milpitas and Berryessa/North San Jose BART stations. The stations feature solar panels, LED lighting, skylights and light-permeable surfaces, electric vehicle charging stations, drought-tolerant plants, reclaimed water for landscaping, and energy-efficient intermittent escalators. The public will be able to enjoy these features beginning June 13 when both stations formally open for passenger service.
In addition to setting internal targets, VTA is also looking at what it can do externally to reduce regional GHG emissions. Efforts such as promoting countywide bike and pedestrian projects, transit-oriented developments, and complete streets will be essential to this cause. As a transit provider, VTA helps offset regional GHG emissions by providing commute alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles. Therefore, increasing ridership continues to be one of VTA’s top priorities.
You can read more about VTA’s Sustainability Program, including the new Sustainability Plan 2020, online.