Transportation plays a major role in reducing regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By providing more convenient, efficient and appealing transportation options, we can move more people while reducing the negative impact that transportation has on the climate and public health. We understand the urgency posed by climate change, which is projected to affect our riders and employees as well as our infrastructure and services. Consequently, each of our actions must be a step toward achieving regional and statewide GHG emissions goals, and ultimately achieving a zero-operational emission transportation system by 2050.
However, the impacts of our transportation system and its operations extend beyond GHG emissions. We operate within the most polluted air basin in the United States, and we recognize that our fuel consumption and use of chemicals (i.e., refrigerants) contribute to regional air quality issues. Accordingly, our approach to mitigating emissions includes strategies that reduce the formulation of smog and other air pollution – which is critical to protecting regional public health. These strategies include transitioning to cleaner fuels and engines and ultimately electrifying our buses and fleet vehicles.
Rolling Out a Zero-Emission Bus Strategy
One of our most important climate action commitments at Metro is mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria air pollutant emissions from Metro operations. Key components of this strategy are to reduce target tailpipe pollutant emissions and create regional and global GHG emissions benefits. This is especially critical, as our bus and non-revenue vehicle fleets are one of our largest collective sources of GHG and pollutant emissions. Converting our buses and non-revenue vehicle fleets to zero-emission vehicles is one of the most effective ways we can accomplish both of those goals, as well as to ensure that our fleets contribute to a clean air future.
Metro’s bus electrification efforts reached a key milestone in 2020. In July, the first electric buses debuted on the Metro G Line (Orange). More were phased in throughout 2020 so that, by the start of 2021, 100% of the G Line buses were battery electric. This is a first and major step toward achieving our goal to electrify the entire bus fleet by 2030, 10 years ahead of the California Air Resources Board’s 2040 100% zero-emission bus requirement for public transit agencies. Metro is already coordinating with bus operations, utilities and the communities where future projects will be to develop layover charging locations for future electric buses. Next, we will convert the Metro J Line (Silver) to battery electric.
Existing buses are also a part of our strategy. Our engine repower program replaces mid-life bus engines with near-zero emissions engines that yield significant reductions (90%) in nitrogen oxides (NOx) and reduce GHG emissions by 9% compared to the standard CNG engines currently installed on older buses. In December 2020, Metro’s Board approved procurement of at least 800 additional near-zero emission bus engines for upcoming bus engine replacements. This effort is an important interim solution for reducing emissions.
While both of these accomplishments are significant milestones on the path toward a zero-emission bus fleet, they also provide significant improvements for neighboring disadvantaged communities. Our transition to near-zero emission engines and electric buses is substantially reducing tailpipe pollutant emissions and contributing to improved air quality in the areas that need it most.
Transitioning Metro’s Bus Fleet to 100% Renewable Natural Gas
As of 2018, 85% of Metro’s operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions came from agency vehicle fuels. A large share of this could be attributed to Metro’s directly operated bus fleet. As of August 2020, this fleet completed its full transition to Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) or biomethane as a low-carbon alternative to diesel and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Derived from waste sources, such as landfills, RNG has proven to be highly efficient and cost-effective in reducing both GHG emissions and fuel costs. This results in about 46% reduction in carbon intensity from using CNG and 53% reduction from diesel fuel.
With full electrification of the bus fleet still several years away, this interim solution supports efforts to mitigate emissions in a cost neutral fashion. Through its procurement of biomethane fuel, Metro has increased the number of environmental commodities and market credits it generates through California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credit program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). By using RNG, Metro generates at least 23 times as many LCFS credits as it would by using standard CNG. The revenue generated through these programs will support system electrification, funding Metro’s roll-out of battery electric buses over the next decade, among other emissions mitigation and sustainability projects.
Our Plan to Combat Climate Change: Metro’s 2019 Climate Action and Adaption Plan
Metro has long been at the forefront of combating and preparing for the effects of climate change through operational efforts to reduce the agency’s environmental impact and the delivery of transportation services that takes cars off the road.
Metro’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), released in 2012 and most recently updated and adopted in 2019, is the guiding document outlining our strategy for reducing operational emissions. The CAAP establishes Metro’s ambitious target to achieve a 79% reduction in GHG emissions from 2017 levels by 2030, as well as to achieve zero emissions by 2050. The CAAP identifies 13 measures to achieve these targets, including transition to zero-emission vehicles, using 100% renewable energy and installing energy and water efficient systems. CAAP goals, targets and actions were incorporated into Metro’s comprehensive sustainability strategic plan, Moving Beyond Sustainability (MBS), and approved by the Board in 2020.
To operationalize these goals and strategies, we are creating a roadmap of projects that will directly contribute to mitigating Metro’s emissions and creating the greatest emissions benefits for the region, while remaining fiscally responsible through cost effective solutions.
Environmental impacts from Metro activities extend beyond our operational GHG emissions. To help inform decision-making and create a more comprehensive picture of impacts and benefits of Metro service across the region, we are expanding the scope of our GHG emissions inventory to capture additional programs and emissions from assets not owned or controlled by Metro.
Funding Emissions Mitigation through Green Bonds
Metro’s public transportation system and transit-oriented community (TOC) development provide significant sustainability and climate benefits to the LA region. By enhancing transit access and improving local land use, these projects reduce congestion and vehicle miles travelled, improve air quality and create environmental, social and economic benefits. These benefits allow Metro to take advantage of innovative Green Bond financing to fund the planning and construction of new projects that will provide additional climate and environmental benefits to LA County.
Metro created this mutually supportive strategy when we devised our first Framework for Green Bonds in 2017, detailing the process for evaluating and selecting projects to be funded by green bonds and how the proceeds would be applied and managed. All green bonds issued by Metro directly finance or refinance the development and construction of rail transit projects that have been identified as providing regional environmental benefits. In July 2020, Metro introduced its Revised Framework for Green Bonds, updating the agency’s environmental objectives to reflect the 2019 Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and the 2020 Moving Beyond Sustainability strategic plan.
Since 2017, Metro has issued three series of green bonds, with the most recent series released in August 2020. These bonds have supported Metro’s transit expansion projects, including but not limited to refurbishments on the Metro A Line (Blue) Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor, Purple (D Line) Extension, Regional Connector and procurement for both heavy and light rail vehicles.
Projects are evaluated by Metro’s Treasury Department with assistance from the Environmental Compliance and Sustainability Department and are selected on the condition that they support Metro’s sustainability goals and meet the eligibility requirements of the Climate Bonds Standard.
Going forward, we plan to continue using green bonds as an environmentally responsible and climate-oriented mechanism to support our emission mitigation efforts. To learn more about Metro’s Green Bonds, Metro’s Green Bonds Annual Report is available on Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) and through our Investor Relations website.
Understanding This Target
This target quantifies the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that are displaced as a result of Metro’s services. We consistently displace more GHG emissions than we produce, meaning that by providing transit, we are preventing GHG emissions. Some of Metro’s displaced emissions come from individuals selecting to ride Metro over driving their own vehicles (known as Mode Shift). The rest are displaced through efficient land use patterns around our transit services. Quantifying Metro’s annual impact on regional GHG emissions ensures we are meeting the intent of regional and state climate goals. As we expand our services, we aim to displace 903,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) on an annual basis by 2030.
In 2020, Metro’s activities contributed to the displacement or prevention of 742,229 MTCO2e of GHG emissions, which is 19.2% less than what Metro displaced in 2019. This is likely due to reduced operations and ridership related to COVID-19. As Metro increases services, and as many riders return to the system, we expect to see Metro displace more emissions. In addition, capital projects that will come online over the next few years, including the Metro Regional Connector Project, the Purple Line Extension and the Airport Metro Connector, will also displace regional emissions.
Understanding This Target
This target measures the operational GHG emissions produced by Metro’s transit operations and non-modal sources like facilities. Transit emissions are directly associated with moving passengers on Metro trains, buses and vanpool vehicles. Non-modal emissions refer to emissions not directly associated with moving passengers, including emissions from support “non-revenue” vehicles, facility electricity, natural gas consumption, water consumption, refrigerant use and employee commuting. We are implementing several actions to expedite the reduction of our GHG emissions, including the electrification of our bus and vehicle fleet, increasing renewable energy sourcing and storage and improving electricity, water and other facility fixtures. By implementing these and other measures identified in our Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) and Moving Beyond Sustainability (MBS) Strategic Plan, Metro expects to achieve a 79% reduction in emissions from 2017 levels by 2030.
In 2020, Metro generated 231,279 MTCO2e of GHG emissions – a 29.3% reduction from 2019. While some of this reduction is likely due to reduced operations resulting from COVID-19, other Metro activities are also reducing emissions. As of August 2020, Metro’s directly operated and contracted bus fleets completed a two-year phase-out of conventional compressed natural gas (CNG) and diesel fuel, and both fleets now run exclusively on renewable natural gas (RNG). Metro also rolled out its first battery electric buses on the Metro G Line (Orange) in July 2020. Meanwhile, over 10% of our purchased electricity came from cleaner energy sources in 2020 through the Clean Power Alliance. Finally, some of our reduced emissions can be attributed to reduced water use at locations like the Metro G Line, as smart irrigation technology reduces water use, thus reducing the embedded electricity that contributes to GHG emissions.
Understanding This Target
This target measures tailpipe NOx emissions from Metro’s fleet vehicles, including the directly operated and contracted buses, and the non-revenue and vanpool fleets. Recognizing that reducing criteria air pollutant emissions is critical to protecting public health, we have continued to transition our directly operated fleet engines to near-zero emissions engines, which substantially reduced NOx emissions. We have also committed to completely electrifying our bus fleet by 2030, as well as ramping up electrification across our non-revenue and vanpool fleets. These collective shifts in fleet composition are expected to lower overall NOx emissions by 54% by 2030 from 2018 levels.
In 2020, NOx emissions reductions decreased. NOx emissions declined by 61.5% from 2019 levels. While some of this substantial reduction is due to reduced operations resulting from COVID-19, other Metro activities also reduced NOx emissions. Over 110 aging engines in our directly operated bus fleet were replaced with near zero-emission engines, and diesel engines were completely phased out of our contracted bus fleet. In addition, our first electric buses were rolled out on the Metro G Line (Orange) in July 2020, contributing over 100,000 miles of emissions-free service. Finally, an increasing proportion of battery electric vehicles were added to and used by our vanpool program.
Understanding This Target
This target measures tailpipe PM emissions from Metro’s fleet vehicles, including the directly operated and contracted buses, and the non-revenue and vanpool fleets. As with Target 3, initiatives to upgrade engines in our bus fleet and electrify both buses and other vehicles are contributing to ongoing reductions in PM emissions. Altogether, we expect these activities to lower overall PM emissions by 62% by 2030 from 2018 levels.
In 2020, PM emissions reductions continued to decrease. PM emissions declined by 55.3% from 2019 levels. As with NOx emissions, some of this substantial reduction is due to reduced operations resulting from COVID-19. However, the replacement of 110 aging engines in our directly operated bus fleet with near zero-emission engines, as well as the phase-out of diesel engines from our contracted bus fleet, reduced PM emissions in 2020. Electrification efforts also contributed to this decline, particularly the roll-out of electric buses on the Metro G Line (Orange) in July 2020.