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MARTA plans aggressive steps to expand sustainability efforts

marta airport station

For decades, Gwinnett County has had opportunities to join MARTA and build rail service, but voters have turned down every proposal so far.

By David Pendered

MARTA is expanding its sustainability program and on Friday received proposals from seven companies vying for a contract to recommend and implement steps the transit system can take to further reduce its usage of water and electricity.

marta airport station

MARTA is expanding its sustainability program. The energy efficient LED system at the Airport Station resulted from a previous sustainability program. commons.wikimedia.org

One way to think of MARTA’s plan is as a full physical examination of an athlete conducted at the start of a sports season.

Everything that can be measured is to be measured. Once that baseline is determined, MARTA will begin implementing specific recommendations to improve performance across all of its facilities.

The product MARTA is seeking is called an investment grade audit. An IGA is a sweeping reform program that the federal Department of Energy defines as a three-step process:

  • “A detailed account of energy and water use;
  • “Cost/savings analysis of potential energy and water savings opportunities;
  • “Project proposal of bundled measures, with a financing plan as well as implementation and savings verification plans.”

MARTA has high expectations of the IGA, according to the scope of work outlined in the request for proposals.

Expectations includes incentives – MARTA wants to identify and secure all energy, water, demand, operational savings and renewable utility incentives to each market sector, meaning plumbing, electricity and so forth.

MARTA's solar canopy at Laredo Bus Facility

MARTA’s solar canopy at Laredo Bus Facility. File/Credit: New South Construction via MARTA.

They include a list of facilities – size, upgrades made within the past three years, operating logs and maintenance reports.

They even include a, “summary of value beyond energy costs.” This means, “employee retention and recruiting benefits, employee productivity benefits, etc.” The RFP states that this portion of the report must be at least qualitative, but that, “quantitative would be best.”

MARTA states in the RFP that it is, “concerned about the quality of the environment.” The 2009 initial baseline resulted in a number of sustainability programs that include:

  • “Solar Photovoltaic: On Sept. 21, 2009, MARTA successfully secured the largest federal Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGER) Grant in the country. The $10.8 million grant for Laredo Bus Facility in Decatur, Georgia provided funding to install shade structures with an array of 4,888 energy-efficient solar panels. This installation is the largest Solar PV installation in Georgia and generates over 1.2 megawatts (mW) of green power. …. Completed in 2012, the project reduces MARTA’s annual power cost by over $70k.”
  • “Paper Towels: As part of the MARTA’s Sustainability “GREEN LIGHT” Program, MARTA eliminated the use of paper towels throughout the agency’s restrooms and installed over 290 high efficiency, low energy hand dryers in all restrooms, beginning in MARTA’s Headquarters building, and eventually applied the initiative to all operating facilities. … With a return of investment of 4 years, the Authority has saved over $160K per year in paper toweling and labor cost.
  • “Switches: MARTA has implemented the Retrofit of Motion Detecting Sensor
  • Light Switches. The purpose of this program is to replace standard light switches with motion detecting sensor light switches in multipurpose rooms that have moderate to infrequent use. The sensors would shut off the lights when the room was not in use, thus saving energy and dollars. … The Authority recouped the costs for this project within 3 months of project implementation.
  • LED Lights: As facilities are renovated, built or funding becomes available, MARTA is using more LED lights due to their longer life span, their low energy consumption and their better quality of light output. … Currently MARTA has LED installations at Airport Station, Ashby Station, Arts Center Station and is retrofitting many other operating facilities. Additionally at Ashby the l,000-foot section of tunnel along Vine City to West Lake was retrofitted with LED tunnel lights as a pilot program. MARTA is retrofitting all sections of tunnel lighting with LED’s.
  • LEED: MARTA has implemented LEED standards … to reduce waste and at the same time make sure the buildings do not contain or leave behind environmentally degrading or harmful materials like asbestos. MARTA’s Buckhead Pedestrian Bridge and Brady Paratransit Bus Facility are LEED certified.”



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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  1. Burroughston Broch July 9, 2016 12:15 am

    Their greatest opportunity to reduce electrical consumption is to employ regenerative braking on the rail cars, but it isn’t mentioned. The opportunities mentioned are minor.Report

  2. Kyle August 15, 2016 4:20 pm

    Burroughston Broch  The current cars have regenerative breaking based on my understanding.  They replaced the motors with dual mode motors when they did the overhauls in 2005Report

  3. Burroughston Broch August 15, 2016 8:23 pm

    Employing regenerative braking also requires major changes to the protective relaying and metering in all traction substations. Until the substations are changed, the dual mode motors must be run in single mode.Report


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