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March 2008

Rail News: Passenger Rail

Sound Transit going 'green'

Sound Transit provides nearly 14 million rides a year on its bus and rail systems, taking thousands of cars off the highways and, in turn, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But now, the agency has taken environmental stewardship to a whole new level.

Last month, independent registrar Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance presented Sound Transit a certificate of approval stating the agency’s environmental management program has met internationally recognized ISO 14001 standards.

Culture change

Sound Transit launched its environmental sustainability program last summer after the board adopted an initiative to integrate sustainable business practices throughout more than 50 areas of the agency’s operations. The plan calls for meeting measurable targets for fuel consumption, vehicle emissions, ecosystem protection, “green” procurement, recycling and waste prevention, energy and water conservation, sustainable design and building, and education and awareness programs.

“It’s about incorporating environmental sustainability into a whole new corporate culture,” says Sound Transit spokesman Linda Robson. “Every single employee participates, down to the recycling under each person’s desk and the type of light bulbs used at each person’s station.”

Each year, an independent firm will audit Sound Transit’s environmental practices. To meet ISO requirements, an organization must put in place management tools that “identify and control the environmental impact of its activities, products or services, and to improve its environmental performance continually,” according to a prepared statement. The organization also must implement a systematic approach for setting environmental objectives and demonstrating they have been achieved.

And once Sound Transit meets its environmental standards, the agency will go back and set new goals based on the ones just attained.

“When we meet our standards for these 50 tasks, it doesn’t mean we’re all done and we get to pat ourselves on the back; it means we’ll start over and set the bar even higher,” says Robson. “We’re not only taking steps across all lines of our business to be more environmentally friendly, but we’re also challenging ourselves to do better every year.”

Sound Transit is the sixth U.S. transit agency — and first on the West Coast — to meet ISO environmental standards.

— Angela Cotey


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