Assessing and Comparing Environmental Performance of Major Transit Investments

Federal transit law provides that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) may financially assist a proposed New Starts project only if it is justified based on a comprehensive review of its environmental benefits (among other criteria). To implement this requirement, the transit community needs a methodology that can be uses to assess the environmental benefits of a transit project in a way that facilitates its comparison to other transit projects in other metropolitan areas. While much thought has been given to comparing the environmental benefits of a transit project to the alternative highway project in the same corridor, an approach to comparing the environmental benefits of transit projects in different cities and of different modes, lengths, and costs is not readily available. The objective of this research would be to develop a methodology for assessing and comparing the environmental benefits of transit fixed guideway projects that can be applied by project sponsors and FTA. FTA has considered using the forecasted air pollutant emission reductions of the transit project as a measure of environmental benefits, but this approach fails to consider the vastly different health benefits of identical emissions reductions in a populous, highly air-polluted metropolitan area compared to a much less populous area that is in attainment of all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality standards. Furthermore, Federal transit law envisions a broader definition of the human environment than simply the air we breathe. It states that, in reviewing a project's environmental benefits and the other statutory criteria, FTA must evaluate and consider, among other things: the direct and indirect costs of relevant alternatives; factors such as--(i) congestion relief, (ii) air pollution, (iii) noise pollution, (iv) energy consumption, and (v) all associated ancillary and mitigation costs necessary to carry out each alternative analyzed; reductions in local infrastructure costs and other benefits achieved through compact land use development; and the cost of suburban sprawl. Thus, the methodology developed should take into account a broad range of environmental benefits and disbenefits of a transit project, in addition to air quality, including especially the other resources protected in Federal law, such as parklands, historic sites, wetlands and waters of the United States, endangered species, etc. </font></div><div><font size="3"> </font></div>


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project H-41

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  USA  20590

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20091015
  • Source Data: RiP Project 20039

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01462432
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project H-41
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:03PM