Public Transit Agencies Celebrate Earth Day!


Public transit agencies across North America are celebrating Earth Day (April 22) by offering free rides and staging special events and highlighting their commitment to environmental sustainability and clean operations.

In California, the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (METRO) is offering free fares countywide on all fixed-route, ParaCruz, and Highway 17 Express services. Since 2002, the agency been taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by initially moving to compressed natural gas and hybrid vehicles. In the fall of 2021, METRO furthered its commitment to “going green” by deploying its first four zero-emissions buses (ZEBs) and by the end of 2023, the agency had nine ZEBs deployed in the county, with more coming every year. Additionally, in 2023, METRO approved the purchase of 53 hydrogen-powered, fuel-cell electric buses (FCEBs), which at the time, was the largest acquisition of FCEBs in North American history.

“I’m proud to be part of an agency that is committed to protecting our local environment and giving back to our community,” said Kristen Brown, METRO Board Chair. “METRO has a long legacy of being a leader in sustainability. That is why we feel it is important to further this commitment by offering free fares this Earth Day and developing programs like One Ride at a Time, that highlight the environmental benefits on using public transportation. I encourage our community to try METRO’s services for free this Earth Day and log their rides via GO Santa Cruz to protect our local environment one ride at a time.”

With the One Ride at a Time program, every ride on a METRO bus donates to partners in protecting the environment, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the Bay of Life Fund, through the GO Santa Cruz ridesharing incentive program.

Omnitrans, in San Bernadino, is offering free rides. “Earth Day is a great time to consider ways to reduce our impact on the environment, and this free ride weekend is a great way to remind people of transit’s impact on sustainability,” said agency CEO/General Manager Erin Rogers. “Using transit just once each week reduces an individual’s carbon emissions by 6,000 pounds per year!”

The regional promotion is part of the state transit industry’s move to zero-emissions buses by 2040, which is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tons (equivalent to taking 4 million cars off of the road) over 30 years.

In Los Angeles, Metrolink is providing free rides on all Metrolink and Arrow trains. “Using public transit is more than getting from point A to point B, it’s about embracing a sustainable future for our communities,” said Metrolink Board Chair and City of Highland Mayor Pro Tem Larry McCallon. “Every journey taken on Metrolink contributes to reducing harmful emissions, profoundly impacting our environment. By choosing public transit, we become better stewards of our planet, paving the way towards cleaner air and a brighter tomorrow.”

As part of this year’s Earth Day celebration, Metrolink has also partnered with local schools to host a student fashion show competition at L.A. Union Station showcasing sustainable designs created by area high school and college students. More than 20 designers based within the five primary counties served by Metrolink’s system – Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura – have entered the competition. Three winners will be selected, and their fashions will be featured across Metrolink’s social media platforms. 

The Orange County Transportation Authority is offering free rides on OC Bus. “OC Bus is always a safe and convenient way to get to work, to school, to the beach, or to just about any destination in Orange County,” said OCTA Chair Tam T. Nguyen. “On Earth Day, we’re making it free for everyone, with the hope that will attract more riders, which will help continue easing traffic congestion and helping our county’s air quality.”

OCTA’s commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship goes beyond Earth Day and is prioritized in OCTA’s board and CEO Initiatives. OCTA utilizes funding from Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, to protect Orange County’s natural resources by funding projects that capture transportation-related pollution and improve water quality.

In addition, the agency is working to convert its entire bus fleet to 100-percent zero emission by 2040. OCTA introduced 10 hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses into its regular fleet in 2020 and has begun testing plug-in battery-electric buses. The pilot programs are helping the agency determine which technology, or mix of technologies, will perform best on Orange County streets, ensuring the highest level of service.

In Chicago, Metra is kicking off its Earth Day campaign by hosting a Pages for the Planet book drive, April 22, with riders encouraged to bring new or gently used books to any downtown station. “While Metra does its part every day to reduce pollution, we can always do more to help the planet,” said Executive Director/CEO Jim Derwinski. “This year’s Earth Day activities are intended to engage our riders and encourage them to protect our planet.”

The donated books will benefit the nonprofit Open Books Ltd. Open Books promotes literacy for Chicago’s youngest residents through programs that provide access to books through donations to schools and other nonprofits, one-on-one reading practice, pre-school literacy skill-building programs, story time programs, and parent and caregiver workshops.

On April 23, Metra will be at the Aon Center to participate in an Earth Day Fair, and from April 22-25, agency employees will be cleaning up trash along the tracks, removing dead plants, and planting flowers and trees at various locations.

In Norfolk, VA,Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) is providing free fares on Earth Day on all bus, light rail, ferry, and paratransit services. “Going fare-free to celebrate Earth Day is an opportunity to thank our riders while encouraging new riders to leave their vehicles behind and try transit,” said William E. Harrell, President and CEO.

This year, members of HRT’s governing board, the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads, will be hosting round-trip rides to meet the public in their cities.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is showcasing its commitment to sustainability this Earth Week. Nationally recognized for its sustainability efforts, the agency strives to provide services and implement programs that encourage healthy habits for people and the planet. MARTA’s bus fleet is primarily comprised of electric and compressed natural-gas buses; with trains and streetcars powered by electricity; and free electric vehicle charging at stations, park and rides, and employee facilities.

MARTA’s Station Rehabilitation Program, which includes the current Airport Station Project, uses only energy-efficient materials, leading to healthier stations for customers and alleviating significant day-to-day maintenance issues and costs. The agency implements programs such as MARTA Markets that bring fresh produce to rail stations in food “deserts,” building soccer pitches at rail stations for a citywide youth soccer league, and partnering with growers to establish community gardens and farms such as the Global Growers farm.

In New Westminster, BC, Canada, TransLink is encouraging Metro Vancouver residents to take Transit for the Planet to cut down on emissions and save money.
By taking transit instead of driving a gasoline vehicle, the average resident can shrink their transportation greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by approximately 80 per cent, while saving up to $8,000 annually when compared to owning and driving a car.

“By choosing to take transit, you not only contribute to reducing carbon emissions but can also enjoy significant financial savings,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn. “Building strong, clean, and sustainable communities starts with taking Transit for the Planet.”
Taking transit is one of the most sustainable ways to get around, after walking and cycling. In one year, TransLink customers collectively save 307,000 tons of GHGs by not driving a car. This is equivalent to removing nearly 100,000 fossil fuel-powered light-duty vehicles (cars, light trucks, SUVs) off the road.
As part of the third annual Transit for the Planet campaign, TransLink employees will be handing out wildflower seed packets at seven major transit hubs to thank customers for choosing transit and to celebrate Earth Day.