Following a year spent investing in 100% renewable fuels and reducing emissions, TriMet welcomes riders to join us in looking toward an even greener future
As we celebrate Earth Day, TriMet continues planting the seeds for more climate initiatives to come. Over the past year, we’ve taken major steps to reduce our carbon footprint and overall impacts on the environment. Our switch to solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, along with the move to renewable diesel in our buses, has helped us on the path toward reaching a nearly 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in just a year’s time.
To get us there, TriMet’s Board of Directors will vote on a resolution Wednesday, April 27, authorizing a contract with Bretthauer Oil Company for R99 renewable diesel for our LIFT paratransit and WES commuter rail vehicles. This is the same type of fuel we began using in fixed-route buses last December. A separate resolution will allow for the purchase of 24 battery-electric, zero-emission buses from manufacturer GILLIG. Also this month, we updated and submitted our Climate Action Plan to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as part of their Sustainable Transit for a Healthy Planet Challenge. It details our climate accomplishments and goals moving forward.
While the long-term plan is to cut TriMet’s emissions down to net zero by 2050, our recent and upcoming initiatives are important steps and will help us make an immediate impact. A 70% reduction in emissions is equivalent to taking around 19,000 automobiles driven for one year off the road, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It would also clear the air of around 193 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
This means there’s plenty to celebrate this Earth Day, and you’re invited. At a few of our Transit Centers, you’ll be able to get an up-close look at some of our battery-electric buses. TriMet staff will also be there handing out tree saplings, an Earth-friendly present for you to keep or plant somewhere in the community. Because these seeds are already germinated, all you have to do is watch them grow!
2021: a year of environmental milestones
This last year has seen TriMet take some major actions to address the health of our climate. Since June 2021, all MAX trains, our latest electric buses and all TriMet-owned facilities run on renewable electricity, a move made possible through PGE’s Green Future and Pacific Power’s Blue Sky programs. That change followed a 2020 analysis, which found that the electricity we used accounted for the agency’s second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions behind only our bus fleet.
Then, in December 2021, we ditched biodiesel in favor of renewable diesel for our buses. Renewable diesel comes from sustainable organic matter like natural fats, vegetable oils and greases. It produces fewer emissions, resulting in a cleaner, low-carbon fuel. This means the buses you ride are even more environmentally friendly travel options than ever before.
Known as “R99” for how it’s derived from 99% renewable sources, it replaced the B5 biodiesel blend we had been using since 2006. Renewable diesel is chemically identical to petroleum, but it contains nearly no fossil carbon and performs better in cold air. This has the added benefit of reducing our maintenance costs by an estimated $100,000 a year.
Targeting zero emissions
Our second fleet of five long-range electric buses went into service last year. This came after we had some success with our first batch of five short-range battery electric buses in 2019. Next up in 2023 we’ll move on purchasing 24 battery-electric buses. These are all important steps as we transition to a 100% zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040.
These future steps also include:
- Purchasing electric vehicles for our supervisors and maintenance crews to use.
- Implementing an Equity Lens for future projects and service planning, which will take into account carbon reductions.
- Performing annual carbon inventory updates to track progress toward emissions reductions.
To make Earth Day every day, we encourage people to get on board to reduce your own carbon footprint. If you need help planning the trip, go to trimet.org and use our easy online trip planner. You can find more help at support.trimet.org or by contacting TriMet’s customer service team at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
By its nature, public transit is powerful tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Transit offers people alternatives to driving or even to owning a car, which reduces transportation-related emissions of carbon. By providing transit that supports walkable communities, TriMet provides a vital tool to help all communities in the region reduce greenhouse gases.
Over the past five decades, TriMet has provided more than three billion rides on our transit system, a positive cumulative impact on the environment that’s immeasurable. Buses and trains hold more people than single occupancy vehicles, and now that they run on cleaner fuel, there’s even more of a reason to take a ride. Each time a person chooses a bus or train over driving their car, our environment benefits.