I am very excited to say that working with our consultant TrustElement, we were able to join the Climate Registry this week. I struggled with this concept initially for NCTD: what taxapayer or ridership value would we bring to the table for making the investment in measuring and reporting emissions, waste, and water usage data to this nonprofit organization?
At the end of the day, the concepts of auditing, data quality, and transparency seemed important to our community. It has become too easy to say one is engaging in projects that are “green” or “sustainable” without some independent validation of these statements. The Climate Registry requires that all reporting entities be validated by an independent and certified third party. This means that our communities and riders could have confidence that the data the NCTD is reporting is in fact accurate. This to me seemed worth the investment.
There is a downside to all of this work; however. I am afraid to say that our initial baseline year does not measure up well to other industry entities. In transit, one important metric is the amount of carbon public transit offsets. So for every ton of carbon generated by our agency in conducting operations, we in theory offset an amount by having our riders avoid independent emissions from their choice to ride our more efficient service rather than driving their own car. In New York, the MTA is able to achieve an emissions factor of 12 – for every 1 ton of carbon, they offset 12 tons. Chicago achieved 5 this year. Philadelphia 3. The industry average is 1.9. Unfortunately, NCTD is 1.6 for calendar year 2009.
The good news is that this gives us a new set of targets and goals to achieve to improve this number. As part of our plan, in 2010 we turned on the green data center, we started deploying solar installations, we installed emissions controls on a segment of the Breeze bus fleet, and in September 2010 we installed a driver feedback system on the buses called GreenRoads to try to improve gas mileage.
Regardless of the numbers we achieved in our baseline year, by measuring ourselves and by having that number audited and verified, our community can now see the progress we make and trust that the numbers are real.