The MetroCard is looking a little green lately. (Click the image for a larger view)
Solar-powered subways cars sound similar to that great gag gift the solar-powered flashlight. After all, how could a subway — a train that is, by definition, traveling underground — rely on the sun for power? It doesn’t make sense.
Yet, that’s just what the MTA is trying to do. As part of agency’s green initiatives announced on Monday, the MTA will be increasing its use of renewable energy resources, among other efforts. Yesterday afternoon, Gov. David Paterson, MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander and MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger gathered to announce the MTA’s new sustainability program. This announcement came on the heels of a sixth-month study conducted by Jonathan F.P. Rose and the Commission on Sustainability and the MTA.
“Sustainability is one of my top priorities for the MTA and I am delighted that the Commission has chosen to look at every area of our operations, and even beyond,” Sander said. Public transportation can play an important role as society works to achieve greater energy efficiency and smaller environmental impacts, and these far-reaching recommendations show how we in transportation can do even more.”
Foremost among the initiatives are a lessening of the agency’s carbon footprint. To that end, the MTA will look to draw seven percent of its energy needs from renewable sources — such as solar, wind and hydroelectricity — within the next seven years. The MTA is looking to make the Roosevelt Island subway stop powered, in large part, by tidal energy, and their solar goals of six megawatts would make it the largest solar project in New York history. William Neuman writes that the plans for solar power include various MTA buildings, bus depots and a bus-washing center.
Beyond energy use, the MTA is looking to encourage transit-oriented development in the metropolitan area suburbs. Their goals are to encourage both commercial and residential development within walking distance to Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road stations in an effort to keep commuters out of cars.
“The MTA already makes an irreplaceable contribution to sustainability simply by taking 8.5 million people each day out of their cars and onto public transportation. We are now taking the opportunity to go even further and lead by example,” Hemmerding said, levying a veiled jab at a New York Assembly too afraid of change to lead by example last week.
But — and there’s always a but — the amNY Subway Tracker blog picks upon a non-sustainable part of the MTA’s environmental campaign: the green MetroCards you can see above. The MTA will introduce five million of those MetroCards as a special tie-in to the campaign. But the cards are not biodegradable and will be around long after the subways stop running. Oh, the irony.
The MTA, I’ve written in the post, is already a green organization simply because it gets so many cars off the rode. Now, the agency is trying to do even more for the environment, and in our post-congestion pricing city, for that, they should be applauded.