CU Mass Transit District wins award for sustainable practices

By The Daily Illini staff report

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District was awarded the Sustainability Award for environmentally sustainable practices for the second time in five years.

“Getting the award for the second time is really impressive and important for us because it shows that we’ve continued to improve our environmental efforts,” said Jane Sullivan, grants manager and sustainability planner of CUMTD.

Every bus purchased since 2009 has been a diesel-electric hybrid bus, she said. Over 80 percent of the busses are now hybrid, which use less fuel and have lower emissions into the atmosphere, making them more sustainable.

The award was given to 27 Illinois organizations and companies, including Riggs Beer Company in Urbana. Winners are chosen based on their achievements in conserving the environment and boosting the economy, according to an Illinois Sustainable Technology Center press release.

Sullivan said the transit system has worked to further improve its environmental efforts over the past five years since its last award in 2013.

“Public transportation plays an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decrease the reliance on oil,” she said.

The CUMTD office also has a role in sustainability. Sullivan said there is a solar array on the maintenance facilities, along with geothermal heating and cooling systems at the office.

All public or private institutions in Illinois were able to apply for the award, and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center technical assistance experts undergo a detailed examination process to determine the winners.

“The key thing is they must have implemented the project. We don’t give awards for organizations that have plans. They actually have to be executed,” said Debra Jacobson, associate director of the Technical Assistance Program.

Jacobson said there are a minimum of three judges assigned per project.

Organizations should to strive to use more sustainable practices because it improves environmental health as well as the economy, she said.  

“Businesses implementing these types of programs find themselves saving money and reducing their regulatory burden for environmental requirements,” Jacobson said.

A significant accomplishment of CUMTD has been the ISO 14001 certified management system, which assists the company to improve its sustainability efforts, Sullivan said. The system includes a third party auditor who visits every year and overlooks the environmental actions of the transit system.

“It’s this national certification we’ve voluntarily taken on to really monitor and measure and ensure continual improvement with our environmental efforts,” Sullivan said.

In addition, she said the transit system has worked to support social sustainability by working with community projects such as the mCORE project, a road construction project on Green Street and other areas of Champaign and Urbana working to improve mobility in the city.

We also have a project that we just recently started where we’re putting the first zero-emissions busses to Champaign-Urbana, and we will receive some federal grant funding for this project,” Sullivan said. “It’s a great accomplishment because it means we are continuing to make progress and we’re continuing to improve.”

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