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Improving the Sustainability of Public Transit

by Alison Weiss, August 2011

The U.S. is an automobile-loving nation: driving a car is right up there with apple pie and baseball as symbols of American life. But recently, rising gas prices and concerns about dependence on foreign oil are causing many to rethink the role of public transit in their lives. The government is also encouraging this change; in 2010, as part of President Obama’s Livability Initiative, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration announced US$290 million in funding for 53 new transit projects for streetcars, buses, and transit facilities to improve quality of life in communities across the country.

According to Ralph Menzano, industry director of transportation at Oracle and the former CIO of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, for transit agencies obtaining additional government funding and on the receiving end of growing public interest, a key challenge in the coming years is to find a way to more effectively manage their organizations in sustainable ways without creating a lot of public debt.

One important component of fiscal sustainability is managing assets for a long and useful life. Menzano suggests that if the average gas-powered bus costs around US$350,000 and is useful for 13 years, with proper asset management this could be stretched one additional year. And with many transit agencies investing in hybrid buses to achieve fuel efficiency, the potential cost savings of extending the life of hybrid buses are significant because hybrid buses are almost double the cost of regular gas-powered buses. “Better asset management directly helps the bottom line,” he says.

Helping transportation organizations achieve sustainability is an important focus at Oracle. Oracle’s new sustainable sensor data management solution, introduced in summer 2011 and part of Oracle E-Business Suite’s Oracle Manufacturing Operations Center, helps customers use sustainability analytics to reduce waste, monitor energy usage, and achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction objectives.

In addition, Ndevr, whose sustainability software was recently acquired by Oracle, offers a plug-in for JD Edwards solutions to measure sustainability metrics. Typically a transit agency is broken down by facility and by rail or bus routes. The agency receives a line-item bill that shows kilowatt (kW) usage. The plug-in effectively converts the kW into CO2 emissions. It matches the CO2 emissions with standards set by the federal government, so companies can see if they need to reduce emissions. Users can also calculate how much money reducing emissions will save the organization.

“Sustainability is not just being ecologically green,” says Menzano, “It’s being financially green too.”

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Alison Weiss is a frequent contributor to Profit.

 
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