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MTA Commits to Slash Greenhouse Gas Emissions 85% by 2040

Updated Apr 20, 2023 4:00 p.m.
Electric Bus

Authority Releases Updated Study Detailing How MTA’s Operations Allow New Yorkers to Avoid 20 Million Metric Tons of Carbon Emissions Per Year, as Much as Is Absorbed by a Forest the Size of Indiana 

MTA Announces Framework to Transition Fleets, Upgrade Facilities, Improve Energy Efficiency and Guide Capital Planning 

View Video Footage of Electric Bus 

View Video of Today’s News Conference 

View Photos from Today’s News Conference 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) – the single largest reason behind New York’s low per-capita carbon emissions– today committed to reducing the emissions that result from operations of the Authority’s trains, buses and facilities by at least 85% by 2040 from a 2015 baseline, an ambitious target that further positions the MTA as a leader in New York State’s efforts to fight climate change.  

At the same time, the Authority released a new analysis showing that the MTA allows New Yorkers to avoid emitting 20 million metric tons of carbon annually, by keeping cars off the road, reducing congestion and enabling high-density neighborhoods. This massive avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions is the equivalent of the amount of carbon absorbed by a forest greater than the size of the state of Indiana or of keeping 4.5 million cars off the road.  

“There is no denying the urgent need to address the climate crisis, and the MTA is a double solution, first by providing New Yorkers with environmentally sustainable form of transportation, and second by finding innovative ways to reduce our own emissions,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “Now more than ever, New Yorkers can feel confident that by riding the MTA they are doing their own part to reduce climate impacts.” 

“This ambitious commitment will make the greenest way to get around even greener,” said MTA Construction & Development President Jamie Torres-Springer. “Through this framework, we will further leverage our capital investments to prioritize emissions reductions and energy efficiencies, making it even clearer that investment in the MTA is investment in combatting climate change.” 

“Subways and buses are moving over five million people daily, a feat that would take millions of cars to accomplish,” said New York City Transit President Richard Davey. “Simply deciding to take transit daily is good for the environment. With New York City Transit’s commitment to a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040, that daily decision to take the bus or subway will get even greener.” 

Thanks to progress being made to green New York State’s electrical grid under the leadership of Governor Kathy Hochul, the MTA will be able to achieve these emissions reductions without compromising the Authority’s inherently sustainable mass transit operations. 

Steps include: 

  • Updating Facilities: MTA will update legacy systems in shops, depots, yards, and stations, with energy efficient tech and low- or no-emissions systems as part of its capital program investments. As an example, the MTA will upgrade HVAC and lighting systems to be more energy efficient, identify opportunities to transition away from fossil fuel heating systems where feasible, and invest in solar panel installations on facility rooftops.  
  • Transitioning Fleets: The MTA will take steps to reduce emissions associated with all fleets. Notably, the MTA will transition its entire bus fleet of 5,800 buses to zero emission alternatives by 2040. In 2019, the MTA purchased 15 electric buses and installed 16 chargers at the MJ Quill Depot. Work on the path to a full transition by 2040 includes taking delivery of the pilot buses from our 60 all-electric bus order, awarding the procurement of 470 all-electric buses, equipping bus depots with new state-of-the-art charging infrastructure to support the MTA's growing electric bus fleet, and expanding a depot-based workforce training program for zero-emissions.   
  • Increasing Energy Efficiency: By using energy management technologies, regenerative energy and power storage, and deploying on-site renewable energy installations. As an example, the MTA is already installing remote controls for third rail heaters to reduce energy usage, one of over 200 efficiency projects the MTA has already completed across its agencies. 

In addition to reducing emissions, the Authority is committing to meet the state’s goal for an equitable green energy transition by prioritizing efforts that impact disadvantaged communities. Environmental justice communities that have historically been disproportionately impacted by pollution will be prioritized for the first electrified buses and routes, thereby reducing emissions that cause harmful and lasting health effects.  

Today’s announcement is the first step toward aligning the entire agency behind sustainability and climate resilience as core goals for the future under a Climate Sustainability Framework. Formally incorporating the role of climate in the long-term planning process, the MTA expects to include sustainability and climate resiliency as key criteria this fall as it releases its Twenty-Year Needs Assessment, the key document that will guide the renewal, upgrade and expansion of New York’s subways, buses and commuter railroads, as well as its nine bridges and tunnels linking the five boroughs of New York City.  

“In celebrating Earth Day with the announcement of this plan, the MTA is poised to be a major catalyst for environmental resiliency in communities like Eastern Queens." said State Senator Leroy Comrie. "I am encouraged by the MTA's commitment to the Climate Sustainability Framework's benchmarks and look forward to the long-term benefits that will come from the plan. Future-forward thinking embedded in the capital planning process is crucial to creating sustainability; and prioritization of neighborhoods that have long been the bearers of the negative impacts of energy consumption will allow those communities to breathe a bit easier." 

"As we build a greater vision for a cleaner and sustainable transportation sector across New York, we need commitments like the one the MTA is making today," said State Senator and Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee Tim Kennedy. "It's imperative that we're united in our efforts to address our growing climate crisis, while simultaneously continuing to strengthen our public transit through targeted investment." 

"The transportation sector is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Commuter trains, subways and buses are climate-friendly alternatives to driving. I am proud that New York is home to our country's largest public transportation system, the MTA," said State Senator and Chair of Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Pete Harckham. "We have a cleaner, healthier environment thanks to the MTA and transit will be essential to winning the fight for a safe climate." 

“I am pleased to see the MTA’s announcement of a plan to reduce emissions and prioritize environmental justice communities,” said State Assembly Member and Chair of Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation Deborah Glick. “The State Legislature set out ambitious goals with the passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019, and the MTA’s Climate Sustainability Framework aims to help advance those goals. It’s critical that every New York State entity work toward energy efficiency and sustainability, and I’m so glad to see the MTA doing its part.” 

“The MTA is essential to unlocking a carbon-neutral future in New York City,” said NYC Council Majority Whip Selvena Brooks-Powers, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “I applaud the MTA’s commitment to greening its infrastructure and its fleet, and I appreciate the MTA’s focus on environmental justice communities, who have for too long been disproportionately impacted by climate change.” 

"The MTA plays a critical role in providing cleaner transportation options for New Yorkers and preventing the emissions of greenhouse gases that negatively impact our climate,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Climate Action Council Co-Chair Commissioner Basil Seggos. “I applaud MTA Chair and CEO Janno Leiber and his team for setting bold emissions and pollution reduction targets, fleet upgrades and other sustainability enhancements that will benefit the entire region. This leadership from the nation’s largest public transportation system sets an example for other systems to follow." 

"The MTA’s commitment to dramatically reduce emissions across their operations is something to celebrate this Earth Week,” said New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and CEO and Climate Action Council Co-Chair Doreen M. Harris. “Expanding access to clean transportation options is key to meeting New York State’s Climate Act goals, improving air quality and building a sustainable future for communities across the state." 

“Achieving Governor Hochul’s ambitious climate and emission reduction goals requires a comprehensive effort from all state agencies,” said New York Power Authority Acting President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll. “The MTA—one of the Power Authority’s largest customers—will be critical to the state’s bold effort. I applaud the MTA’s goal of reducing emissions 85% by 2040 and the Power Authority is ready to partner with them on exciting energy projects in the years ahead.” 

“The MTA is a critical tool for New York to lower statewide emissions and meet our bold climate goals,” said New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe. “This groundbreaking Climate Sustainability Framework reinforces the critical role transit plays in fighting climate change and we are proud to support the MTA on their way to reducing emissions by 85% by 2040. Taking public transportation is already the easiest thing New Yorkers can do to lower their carbon footprint, and it’s only getting greener thanks to this framework.” 

“The MTA already offsets over 20 million tons of carbon emissions every year – equivalent to the annual emissions generated by nearly 4.5 million gas-powered vehicles,” said Regional Plan Association President and CEO Tom Wright. “The MTA’s Climate Sustainability Framework is the leading, forward-thinking vision that New York City and State need as we work to meet our bold clean energy goals.” 

"Public transit is one of our region's most important tools in fighting the climate crisis," said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Director of Climate and Equity Policy Jaqi Cohen. "MTA already makes a significant contribution towards reducing the region's carbon footprint, offsetting an estimated 20 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year. With this new commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2040, the MTA is taking further strides towards improving the region's carbon impact and setting an important precedent for other transit agencies across the country to follow."  

"The Metropolitan Transit Authority's decision to prioritize electric buses and emissions reductions is a vital move towards a cleaner, healthier New York,” said State Affairs Director at Environmental Defense Fund Mary Barber. “By focusing these efforts on disadvantaged communities, the public transportation authority demonstrates its commitment to an equitable and sustainable future.” 

“Choosing public transportation is already the sustainable choice, and now the trains and buses that move so many New Yorkers are going to become even greener,” said Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives Danny Harris. “Investing in sustainable public transit is both fiscally and environmentally smart, and we’re excited to see every bus become a zero emissions vehicle.” 

“Taking transit is the greenest way to go, not only as we celebrate Earth Day, but every day. The MTA already avoids over 20 million metric tons of CO2 every year by getting millions of New Yorkers out of cars, but it can, and will, do more to be part of the solution,” said Chair of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC) and the LIRR Commuter Council and MTA Board Member Gerard Bringmann. “We’re heartened by the significant steps it is taking to make an even bigger difference in fighting the climate crisis by pledging to reduce GHG emissions by 85 percent by 2040. As New Yorkers, we can contribute too, by taking the train, bus and rail – it’s good for the air we breathe, our economy and our future.”