Case Study Source: The Joint U.S.-Brazil Initiative on Urban Sustainability, part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Summary

"SEPTAinable: The Route to Regional Sustainability" is the sustainability plan for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which provides public transit for five Pennsylvania counties, including Philadelphia. SEPTA developed this plan with the goal of streamlining resources and maximizing investments in order to enable its transit system, the sixth largest in the nation, to provide a foundation for regional sustainability improvements. SEPTAinable approaches sustainability through a triple-bottom-line frame, focusing on environmental goals, such as greenhouse gas and other pollution reduction; social goals that include measures of community health; and economic goals, such as improving the state of SEPTA's transit infrastructure. Among its environmental goals, SEPTAinable sets a target of 10 percent improvement in SEPTA's water use and pollutant discharge performance, to be achieved by 2015. The initiatives identified to achieve this target include several practices that are intended to reduce stormwater runoff from SEPTA properties. These measures will not only reduce SEPTA's contribution to water pollution but will also support SEPTA's efforts to reduce its impervious surface and associated fees under Philadelphia's new stormwater utility rate structure.

SEPTAinable emphasizes that SEPTA must take certain approaches to ensure effective implementation of this plan, including focusing on life-cycle impacts instead of short-term efficiency, and including social and environmental benefits in its calculations of returns on investments.

SEPTAinable also complements SEPTA's Five-Year Strategic Business Plan, which includes sustainability as a core objective. For SEPTA, sustainability is closely linked with the other five core objectives outlined in its business plan: customer service, ridership growth for transit, safety and security, human capital development, and new technologies. SEPTAinable also aligns with the American Public Transportation Association Sustainability Commitment.

How to Apply this Policy

Other cities' transit authorities may use SEPTAinable as a model for their own comprehensive sustainability planning or as a tool for translating policies into achievable targets. They may also use SEPTAinable and SEPTA's Five-Year Strategic Business Plan as guides for investing in public transit systems in a way that generates environmental, social and economic benefits.

Contact Information

Erik Johanson
SEPTA
Phone: +1 (215) 580-8113
Email: ejohanson@septa.org
Mail: 1234 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Example

The Brazilian Government instituted an Urban Mobility program as part of its Growth Acceleration Program (PAC), which invest R$ 32 billion (USD 15.8 billion) towards projects for rapid transit, light rail, and dedicated bus lanes, in cities with populations of more than 700,000. Among the anticipated projects are the construction of more than 600,000 kilometers of dedicated bus lanes, at least 380 bus stops and terminals, 200 kilometers of rapid transit lines, and the purchase of more than 1,000 light rail cars. Fifty-one cities in eighteen states will benefit from this program, potentially impacting 53 million people.