April 22, 2004

Recycling Efforts and Emissions Reduction Highlight CTA Efforts

Public transit is of major importance to large cities such as Chicago, from an environmental and economic standpoint. A strong public transit system is vital to the economic health of the region. The Chicago Transit Authority provides more than 1.5 million rides on an average weekday. The CTA provides more than four of every five of the public transit trips in the entire six county region, either with direct service or connecting service to Metra and Pace. Without transit, Chicago's expressways would suffer from traffic jams far more serious than those already experienced on a daily basis.

By its very nature, public transit is inherently environmentally friendly. In addition, reducing the emissions of its fleet, recycling of vehicles and associated materials, and recycling of standard materials are also conducted by the agency to lessen the impact of its operations on the environment.

Since 1997, fleet emission levels have dropped by 16 percent while recycling efforts in 2003 produced 3.3 million pounds of recyclable material (cardboard, mixed office paper, bus shelter plastic and metals). In addition, 93 vehicles and 12,460 pounds of acid batteries were recycled.

"Public transit is designed to reduce the impact of transportation on the environment. Fewer cars on streets and highways help reduce traffic congestion and pollution for the entire metropolitan region," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?But we are also committed to making CTA's operations as environmentally friendly as possible."

?The CTA works hard to seek out and incorporate innovative green technologies into all aspects of our day-to-day operations and planning," said CTA President Frank Kruesi.

By providing newspaper recycling bins at 113 of its rail stations, the CTA encourages customers to contribute to its recycling efforts. On an average weekday, CTA collects 6,227 pounds of newspapers from customers. The collected recyclables are bagged and sent for recycling in a process similar to the City of Chicago's Blue Bag recycling program. CTA began providing recycling bins at rail stations for newspapers in 1997.

Bus Fleet

Today, CTA's total fleet emissions is 2,186 tons annually, 16 percent less than it was in 1997 even though the CTA bus fleet has grown by 164 buses or nine percent. As the CTA continues to add new buses to its fleet, emissions will continue to decline.

CTA's strategic plan includes the future purchase of new buses equipped with the cleanest possible diesel technology available to provide cleaner burning vehicles. All new buses added to the fleet come equipped with exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) engines and particulate filters. EGR engines take a portion of gas exhaust and run it back through the engine, i.e., re-burning the exhaust and making the engine run cleaner. The combination of EGR engines, particulate filters, and the ultra low sulfur diesel fuel implemented by the CTA last year, provides the cleanest possible diesel exhaust system available. Existing CTA buses retrofitted with EGR engines, particulate filters and burning ULSD fuel are experiencing a 28.6 percent reduction in emission levels.

Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel

In March 2003, the CTA was among the first large fleets in the country to convert all diesel vehicles in its fleet of buses and non-revenue vehicles to ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel to drastically reduce emissions. The use of ULSD fuel in combination with particulate matter filters has enabled CTA's newest buses to experience a 90 to 95 percent reduction in emissions. Even older model buses ? those without particulate filters ? experience a five to 15 percent lower emissions level as a result of the conversion. By converting to ULSD fuel last year, the CTA is ahead of schedule in implementing the 2007 Federal Emission requirements for reduced particulate matter and carbon monoxide.

Recycled Rail Ties

CTA is the nation's largest purchaser of recycled content plastic (composite) railroad ties. Of the 650,000 track ties in use on the CTA system, 32,000 are made from plastic, with an additional 9,000 currently on order. CTA began replacing its wooden creosote-soaked railroad ties with recycled plastic ties in 1998. The plastic ties offer both performance and environmental advantages.

Wood ties require creosote treatments to extend the service life of wood, especially in certain harsh climates. The plastic ties resist decay, insect attack and water absorption and are free of chemicals used as preservatives.


CTA is a member of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's WasteWise program, which helps public and private companies to recycle and reduce waste. As part of the program, CTA has set out to reduce waste through recycling and waste prevention. Through this initiative, CTA has sought out a variety of recycling opportunities. In 2003, this effort resulted in the following recycled items:

Cardboard: 65,700 pounds

Mixed Office Paper: 160,700 pounds

Bus Shelter Plastic: 19,770 pounds

Ferrous (iron) Metals: 2,979,600 pounds

Non-ferrous Metals: 112,987 pounds

Engine Oil: 298,192 gallons

Anti-freeze: 12,270 gallons

Buses (scrap sales): 24 buses

Other Vehicles (scrap sales): 69 vehicles

E-Waste (PCs/Printers/etc): 100 pallets of e-waste

Lead Acid Batteries: 12,460 pounds

Wooden Pallets: 600 pallets

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