Minimizing Impacts

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FTA works to ensure that our grantees' transit projects minimize the negative impacts on their surroundings and in their communities through environmentally sound practices.  The FTA's environmental impact regulation (Environmental Impact and Related Procedures (23 C.F.R 771)), issued jointly with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), describes two types of mass transit projects that normally have significant effects on the environment:

  1. New construction or extension of fixed rail transit facilities (e.g. heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail and automated guideway transit); and
  2. New construction or extension of a separate roadway for buses or high-occupancy vehicles not located within an existing highway. e.g. bus rapid transit)

Other types of mass transportation projects may also require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) based on FTA's review of the proposed project and whether its impacts are judged to be potentially significant.

In addition, transit agencies often go above and beyond federal requirements.  There are numerous examples of transit agencies taking action to minimize their impact on the local environment.  Many transit agencies, for instance, have purchased compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, which significantly reduce air pollutants.  FTA's grantees are also using hybrid-electric buses to conserve fuel and lower emissions.  Some grantees are constructing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. 

Several transit agencies are implementing Environmental Management Systems (EMS), which address various operation and management issues such as energy conservation, efficient water use, vehicle emission reduction, materials recycling, and management of hazardous materials. 

For example, New York City Transit has implemented an Environmental Management System certified to international standards known as ISO 14000.  As just one part of its EMS, New York City Transit constructed its new rail maintenance facility as a LEED-certified facility.  It has a photovoltaic system for electricity, a fuel cell system for domestic hot water, a natural ventilation system, a rain water harvesting system for car wash, and a public education outreach program.

As yet another example, according to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), CTA was able to reduce its vehicle emissions by 16 percent even while expanding its fleet by nine percent.  CTA also recycled 3.3 million pounds of material in one year alone, including cardboard, mixed office paper, bus shelter plastic and metals.  In addition, the agency recycled 93 vehicles and 12,460 pounds of acid batteries.


  • Transit Green Building Action Plan - Under request from Congress, FTA produced an analysis of green buildings in transit and the actions FTA can take to encourage these practices in the transit industry.  Transit Green Building Action Plan

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