Greening the MTA

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There's a lot to like about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) recent announcement that it's looking for ways to go green. Sure, riding the subway and/or bus in New York is a pretty eco-friendly thing to do, compared to driving a car around town. But when you run a massive 6,200 car, 468 station subway system as well as a 4,500 bus system, which transports 740 million people per year, plus two massive commuter rail lines, you still contribute pretty significantly to the city's pollution. There's really no way around it: the MTA has preliminarily estimated the system's carbon footprint at a staggering 2.7 million metric tons per year.

The question is, how much pollution is the MTA offsetting by providing trains and buses to millions of commuters, tourists and city residents every day? That's a hard calculation to make but that's exactly the type of question that the MTA will attempt to answer with its' Blue Ribbon Commission on sustainability. Other questions could include:

  • How much water does the MTA use, and how does that impact the city and surrounding areas?
  • What about runoff and the effects on our sewer system and water bodies?
  • Can the MTA shrink its waste stream and improve its recycling practices? How about using more green design in the system?

In addition, the panel will look at the transit system's vulnerabilities to climate change.You know those commuter lines along the Hudson River? If sea levels rise, as they are predicted to, the tracks will be under water. What will the MTA do to adjust to these changes?

All of this sounds great and very much in line with the Mayor's PlaNyc 2030 initiative. If you are interested in learning more, I suggest listening to this radio interview on WNYC.

Before the panel begins any serious study, though, I'd like to suggest a few problems that the MTA may be able to solve for all riders, in an eco-friendly way:

1) Station Announcements- You can't understand a word they are saying, right? Neither can I. To improve the sound while making a relatively small environmental impact, perhaps the MTA should look into some larger, sustainable speakers like these. "There are delays..." never sounded so loud and clear. Or green.

2) The Smell- Okay, as much as I love riding the subway, the smells that live in those tunnels are hard to get used to. So, may I suggest finding an eco-friendly way of removing or covering the stench of urine, mold and garbage? Perhaps buy millions of scented soy wax candles and light them in every station?

3)The Noise- I get the feeling that after all of those years saving the environment by riding on public transportation, a number of us are going to go deaf. Let's face it, our eco-friendly buses and subways are LOUD. Maybe the MTA could invest in a few million organic cotton balls for the faithful riders? Are you with me folks?

Anyway, all kidding aside, I'm looking forward to the results of the panel's work. I'll be following their work over the next few months and will give additional reports in the near future.

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