The MTA and New York's Low Carbon Footprint

Earth Day 2010

Many people know that taking public transportation is the environmentally friendly way to travel. Now the MTA has verified climate numbers to prove it.

The Climate Registry, a non-profit organization that operates the only North American voluntary greenhouse gas registry, has for the first time accepted the MTA's carbon emissions and publicly reported them on its website.

"We now know how much carbon MTA operations emit each day. But more importantly, we also know how much carbon is prevented from entering the atmosphere when 8.5 million people per day choose to ride the train or the bus instead of drive their cars," said Ernest Tollerson, MTA Director of Policy and Media Relations.

Using a methodology developed by the American Public Transit Association, in cooperation with the MTA and other U.S. transit agencies, consulting firms, nonprofits and academics, the MTA enables New Yorkers to avoid emitting 8.24 units of carbon for every unit the MTA emits through its operations. That means that New Yorkers avoid emitting 19.8 million metric tons of carbon a year. At the same time, its network of subways, buses, commuter trains, paratransit vehicles, bridges and tunnels releases 2.4 million metric tons of carbon annually. The net result is a savings of 17.4 million metric tons of carbon throughout the course of the year.

"This number is a window on the MTA's role in reducing carbon and evidence that investing in public transportation is one of the best strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Projjal Dutta, the MTA's Director of Sustainability Initiatives.

Governed by states, provinces, territories and tribes, The Climate Registry helps hundreds of public and private organizations measure, report and reduce their carbon emissions with integrity. "The Climate Registry congratulates the MTA on successfully reporting its carbon emissions in a public, transparent and credible way," said Denise Sheehan, Vice President for Government and Regional Affairs at The Climate Registry. "By taking this important step, the MTA continues to demonstrate its leadership in addressing climate change and fostering new ways to manage and reduce carbon emissions."

"This is proof positive that New Yorkers are avoiding the release of a very large volume of greenhouse gas emissions by riding the region's trains and buses," said William Millar, the President of the American Public Transportation Association. "It demonstrates how important public transportation is in combating climate change and reducing carbon emissions. Clearly, it is one more important reason for everyone to support the expansion of public transportation services throughout the country."

For this effort, the Climate Registry retained Ryerson, Master and Associates, Inc. (RMA), a member of the Lloyds Register group of entities, to independently verify our carbon footprint. RMA is a leader in climate change consulting and greenhouse gas verification, and has verified over 550 million tons of CO2.

The carbon avoidance factor is calculated using a three-part methodology that takes into account 1) car trips avoided each time someone leaves his or her car at home and chooses to ride a train or bus; 2) congestion relief and therefore increased fuel efficiency of those cars that remain on the road; and 3) public transportation's role in fostering compact land-use patterns that encourage walking and bicycling for some trips and shorter trips overall.

If carbon emissions are to become the subject of a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system in the years ahead, public transportation agencies across the country could use this or similar data to make a strong case that they should be entitled to a share of the carbon revenue for their role in preventing the release of greenhouse gases.