SEPTA to Host Industry Sustainability Conference

March 20, 2012

Transit Planners in Philadelphia August 5-8, 2012

Peer recognition is often the truest indicator of performance.

By that measure, SEPTA's Sustainability Program has been a success. In August, SEPTA will host the 2012 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) "Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop." The four-day conference will bring hundreds of the industry's most influential sustainability and environmental policy professionals to the Philadelphia region, where they will sample SEPTA's progress towards a comprehensive environmental, social, and economic sustainability agenda.

SEPTA's Sustainability Program, adopted by the SEPTA Board in January 2011, formalized the organization's commitment to sustainability. APTA's selection of Philadelphia as the site for this important annual event less than two years after the plan's Board adoption reflects the industry's recognition of SEPTA's emergence as a leader in the field.

APTA's own program is formalized in its core document, the APTA Sustainability Commitment. The Commitment serves as a framework for operating agencies to develop and implement sustainability programs. SEPTA's is a signatory and used APTA's planning principles to develop action items and to standardize performance indicators that measure progress over time.

At the same time, SEPTA rooted its sustainability plans in the reality of SEPTA's cost-constrained operating environment. What emerged was a plan comprised of programmatic initiatives that are grounded on two key principles:

  • Budget Neutral: All sustainability initiatives are evaluated based on measures of cost effectiveness and return on investment. Adhering to this principle, SEPTA has successfully advanced cost-saving and revenue-generating energy efficiency and recycling initiatives, and has been selected for $22,787,000 in grant funding for capital-intensive projects.
  • Leverage Existing Assets: SEPTA is asset rich but resource poor - one of the most expansive rail transit systems in the United States, but also one of the oldest. Adhering to this principle, SEPTA has successfully advanced initiatives that focus on a "fix it first" mindset as outlined in the Authority's Five-Year Strategic Business Plan to improve the system's state of good repair.

The latter principle is the theme of this year's APTA Sustainability Workshop. The event will focus on the connection between sustainability and state of good repair, and in particular, how innovative partnerships are being forged to advance both objectives.

For the transit industry, the importance of advancing sustainability and state of good repair agendas comes at a time of increasing fiscal pressure. Historic ridership growth and budget cuts have coincided with aging infrastructure and severe weather events. The resulting costs and damage have compelled the industry to seriously consider the impact of sustainability on infrastructure vulnerability, and to develop adaptation strategies that reduce future risk.

Rather than go it alone, partnerships have proven to be an effective solution. Increasingly, transit agencies, civic organizations, universities, and private sector firms are joining forces to leverage available resources and develop comprehensive plans. The result: increased resiliency of transit systems and services, improved safety and service for customers, and new capacity for creative, cross-sector collaboration.

APTA's Workshop will explore this convergence, and how emerging partnerships are paving the way to implement cutting-edge sustainable practices. SEPTA's success to-date in advancing its sustainability agenda is thanks in large part to partnership projects that make the best use of organizational strengthens to achieve shared objectives.

For SEPTA, strategic alliances with private sector firms such as Viridity Energy (Wayside Energy Storage), public sector agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (Locomotive Retrofit), and not-for-profits such as The Food Trust (Farmers Markets), exemplify the value of partnerships. These and many others are highlighted throughout SEPTA's recently released Sustainability Program Annual Report. The APTA Sustainability Workshop will serve as a platform to highlight them, and to apply new industry innovations to advance SEPTA's Sustainability Program in the years to come.


  • 2009: Salt Lake City, UT (Utah Transit Authority)
  • 2010: New York City, NY (Metropolitan Transportation Authority)
  • 2011: Los Angeles, CA (LA Metro)
  • 2012: Philadelphia, PA (SEPTA)