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MARTA at forefront of Biden, D.C. focus on transit to reduce climate change

By David Pendered

As Congress and the Biden administration look to mass transit to help curb greenhouse gas emissions and ease climate change, MARTA’s work to reduce its carbon footprint with CNG- and battery-fueled buses is being recognized nationally.

MARTA has replaced many of its older, diesel-burning buses with CNG-fueled vehicles that emit less tailpipe pollution. Credit: Kelly Jordan

MARTA announced March 22 it has received a Gold Level recognition for its sustainability efforts from the American Public Transportation Assoc. MARTA was named in four categories: buildings, environment, community and climate.

In regards to climate, MARTA observed that it has lowered its GHG emissions by almost 27% in 10 years. CNG buses now comprise almost three-quarters of the agency’s bus fleet and six battery-electric buses are in the pipeline to replace six diesel-burning vehicles.

In a statement, MARTA GM/CEO Jeffrey Parker said:

  • “MARTA remains committed to continually enhancing our assets and operations to reduce costs, positively impact the environment, and improve the communities in which we operate, work, and live. It is an honor to receive this important industry distinction and I’m proud of the hard work being done in all of our departments to achieve and exceed our sustainability goals.”

MARTA’s reduction in its carbon footprint is the type of improvement in local air quality envisioned by Congress and the Biden administration. Transit is integral in the effort in terms of reducing its own GHG emissions, as well as its role in reducing tailpipe exhaust from vehicles that could be replaced – in whole or in part – by transit.

Two of the federal initiatives are:

MARTA is scheduled to purchase six electric-powered buses to replace six diesel-burning vehicles. This model was on display in Atlanta in 2017. Credit: Kelly Jordan (2017 trade show at Georgia World Congress Center)

  • Biden’s executive actions in January that aim to establish in the U.S. a “carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050,” according to a Jan. 27 statement from the White House.
  • House Resolution 583 – the Green Bus Tax Credit Act of 2021. The measure would provide a 10% tax credit through 2026 on the sales prices of a zero-emissions bus, defined as a vehicle that is, “propelled solely by an electric motor that draws electricity from a battery or fuel cell, and is designed to carry 15 or more passengers.” The measure is a candidate to be included in upcoming infrastructure legislation.

In Congress, electric buses were a major topic in the March 17 hearing on “The Business Case for Climate Solutions,” convened by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The CEO of a company that makes electric transit buses noted in prepared remarks that the market is moving toward electric vehicles. Jack Allen, of Proterra, Inc. cited a report that notes 15 states and Washington, D.C. have signed an agreement to ensure that “100 percent of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero emission vehicles by 2050 with an interim target of 30 percent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030.”

In addition, on March 18 members of the House Ways and Means Committee reportedly met in private with APTA’s chief to talk about public transit as a way to address GHG emissions and climate change. APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas urged federal support to purchase green buses by supporting a manufacturer credit, such as HR 583, and revisions to the federal Highway Trust Fund, according to an APTA report.

Electric buses don’t compromise on power. They can accelerate 1.5 times faster than a diesel bus, have twice the horsepower and climb grades of 27%, Jack Allen, CEO of Proterra, Inc. testified this month before a House committee. Credit: Kelly Jordan (2017 trade show at Georgia World Congress Center)

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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