The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Transportation has announced the winners of the 2020 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards. CARTA received an award for its Wayside Inductive Power Transfer System for Electric Buses.
“We congratulate these winners who are on the cutting edge of possibilities in sustainability in transportation,” TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said. “Their innovation and achievements come in many forms, but all share the goal of a better environment, and our state benefits from their example.”
“This year’s winners represent a broad range of projects designed to enhance transit services while also raising the bar for environmental stewardship,” TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright said. “We are so pleased to encourage and support initiatives that provide benefits to citizens and communities.”
The Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards recognize outstanding initiatives to improve the efficiency, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability of transportation systems in the state. A panel of judges selected the following 2020 winners:
Southwest TN Development District
Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority
Knoxville Utilities Board
American Natural Gas / Frito-Lay Fayetteville
Town of Chapel Hill
Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee
Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County departments of Planning and Public Works / KCI Technologies, Inc.
NET Trans / Alliance AutoGas
The recipients were recognized Tuesday by the TDEC and TDOT commissioners via webinar in conclusion to the 2020 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Forum and Expo. TDEC, TDOT, and Tennessee Clean Fuels host the annual forum, where participants share and discover projects that can reshape what is possible in transportation and mobility. In 2020, the event has been held as a free, online webinar series that promotes research, technology, planning, and policy developments that improve transportation efficiency, reduce vehicle emissions, and address mobility needs. Learn more at www.sustainabletransportationforum.com.
A full description of the winning initiatives:
Southwest TN Development District – MyRide West TN
MyRide West TN provides safe and reliable door-through-door transportation for older adults who are ambulatory and in need of assistance due to health or safety concerns. Operating out of the Southwest TN Development District’s Agency on Aging and Disability since May 2017, the program strives to improve the quality of life for older adults by providing courteous and safe mobility solutions, enabling these adults to obtain essential services, such as health care, grocery and pharmacy shopping, and maintain their independence, dignity, and quality of life, which can include living independently and engaging in social and community events. As of August 2020, MyRide West TN has 42 volunteer drivers participating in the program, providing an essential service that makes mobility equitable and accessible for older Tennesseans in their jurisdiction.
Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority – Wayside Inductive Power Transfer System for Electric Buses
The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) has expanded its already innovative electric transit bus fleet through the installation of inductive power transfer systems (wireless charging). Working with partners from the University of Tennessee, CARTA has paired an inductive power transfer system with several new BYD electric transit buses, each launched in March 2019 with a battery range of 150 miles and the ability to accept a wireless charge. The inductive power transfer system was installed within the transit-way of CARTA’s Shuttle Park South facility in downtown Chattanooga to allow for en route fast charging for longer, fixed route electric vehicles. The modular inductive power transfer system’s charging capacity ranges from 60 kW to 200 kW and can wirelessly charge an electric transit bus within minutes. As part of a complementary research project with the U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office, each of the new BYD vehicles was equipped with a telematics unit to provide real-time vehicle data and energy usage to a web-based portal that will assist in developing route designs and charging schedules that maximize vehicle performance. CARTA’s utilization of pure electric transit vehicles on its fixed route service going forward will have a significant impact on local air quality and can inform a national model for this type of charging technology deployment.
Knoxville Utilities Board – Electric Vehicle Level 2 Charger Rebate Program
In early 2019, the Knoxville Utilities Board’s (KUB’s) Utility Transformation Team began exploring ways to incentivize electric vehicle adoption within the utility’s service area, deciding that a charging station rebate program would best serve its customers in terms of accessibility and need. Tennessee’s first-ever utility charging station rebate program was launched by KUB in August 2019. The rebate covers 100 percent of electric vehicle charging equipment costs up to $400. By July 2020, the program has already aided approximately 85 customers with the purchase of their Level 2 electric vehicle chargers, amounting to almost $35,000 in contributions from KUB. Being the first utility to offer an electric vehicle incentive program in the Tennessee Valley, KUB has been recognized as a leader in utility efforts supporting electric vehicle adoption and is exploring ways to modify the existing program to create new opportunities for its customers.
American Natural Gas / Frito-Lay Fayetteville – Renewable Natural Gas Fueling Station
American Natural Gas (ANG) builds, operates, and maintains natural gas fueling stations across the country and strives to provide 100% domestically sourced renewable natural gas to its customers. Frito-Lay is a major customer at several of ANG’s renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations, including a fueling station at Frito-Lay’s facility in Fayetteville, TN. The Fayetteville station is equipped with three fueling lanes and both NGV1 and NGV2 nozzle types. Primarily used by Frito-Lay, the station is also accessible to the public.
Town of Chapel Hill – Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure Community Master Plan
According to census data, the Town of Chapel Hill, Tenn., grew in population by over 50 percent between 2000 and 2015, due in large part to the small town’s proximity to the Greater Nashville Area. However, limited accessibility and a lack of alternative transportation routes made traffic congestion a major community concern, as well as a significant threat to pedestrian safety and mobility. In response, the Town of Chapel Hill began a community transportation assessment and planning project, identifying ways to connect residential areas, schools, parks, churches, retail, and business properties that would help accommodate future growth and transportation needs for the community. As a part of this planning process, Chapel Hill strategically invested in a walking trail at Depot Park that would function as a trailhead for a master community sidewalk. The town also updated traffic signals on Horton Parkway, leading to Henry Horton State Park, to provide protection to bicycle and pedestrian traffic in the area. To help continue its planning efforts, Chapel Hill received $50,000 from TDOT for a Community Transportation Planning Grant; $187,000 from TDEC for a Recreational Trails Grant, creating pedestrian pathways that connect Depot Park and the Chapel Hill Elementary School to Horton Parkway; more than $3 million from TDOT to fund construction projects under the town’s long range plan; and $60,000 from TDOT to fund both a local traffic study of major thoroughfares as well as the development of a virtual, interactive long range plan to aid in local stakeholder and investor education. Chapel Hill's continued planning and implementation will provide the town's residents and visitors with a choice of safe, reliable transportation without the need of automobiles.
Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee – Transit Citizen Leadership Academy
The Transit Citizen Leadership Academy (TCLA) is designed to equip private-sector and public-sector leaders across the 10 counties of Middle Tennessee with tools to lead conversations about the value of multimodal transit and the emerging mass transit options that can address the region’s mobility needs. The Academy is built around a six-session program developed by the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee that brings the experience and expertise of local elected officials, college professors, entrepreneurs, engineers, planners, federal and state agencies, and nonprofit organizations together for a deep dive into what it would look like, what it would cost, and what it would take to improve and enhance regional transportation. Discussions include land use planning and zoning policy, funding, infrastructure, transit-oriented developments, protected bicycle lanes, pedestrian safety, equitable access, affordability, overall transit system improvements, environmental impacts on air quality and community health, transportation demand management (TDM), and technological advancements. The TCLA is an easily transferable program to educate and inform communities about the value of improving and enhancing transportation infrastructure for sustainability. Other Tennessee cities such as Knoxville and Memphis have consulted with the Transit Alliance on how to adopt and adapt the TCLA curriculum for their areas. There have been 19 TCLA cohorts trained since 2010, with the 2020 cohort trained completely online. The program now boasts 464 alumni across Middle Tennessee.
Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County Departments of Planning and Public Works / KCI Technologies, Inc. – Arthur Avenue Cycle Track
The Metro Nashville Public Works and Planning Departments recently partnered with KCI Technologies to complete traffic engineering, design, and implementation of a cycle track along Arthur Avenue in North Nashville, a neighborhood with a unique history whose population has been increasingly threatened by growing development and gentrification. An extensive public engagement period occurred prior to project implementation, including a resident-led planning effort to establish the neighborhood’s goals and objectives for revitalization. Central to their effort was determining how to make streets safe, culturally relevant, and welcoming. Having been identified in Nashville’s WalkNBike Plan, initial design concepts for the north end of the corridor were explored through an AARP grant allocated to TURBO Nashville. Lessons learned from this pilot installation, which included a pocket park and protected bike lanes, were utilized to inform design details of the remaining cycle track. The track utilizes existing pavement width to increase the safety of all transportation users by clearly delineating motorized and non-motorized traffic. Along this cycle track, safety improvements at critical intersections and dedicated space for each user type allows each mode to operate efficiently within their own lanes. Ensuring non-motorized users are safely accommodated for and encouraged as a viable alternative to the personal vehicle along this critical North Nashville corridor — especially for shorter, inter-neighborhood trips — is vital for sustainability. Reducing vehicular trips through mode shift is of particular importance to this project given the existing noise and air pollution produced by the nearby interstate. Given its proximity to downtown, change inevitably stands in North Nashville’s future; however, the new bikeway ensures that all community members, regardless of economic status or physical ability, can navigate the corridor in a safe manner for years to come.
NET Trans / Alliance AutoGas – Elizabethton, Greeneville, and Kingsport AutoGas Programs
NET Trans is a rural public transit fleet serving nine counties in the eastern part of the state. In March 2015, NET Trans entered into a partnership with Alliance AutoGas to implement three alternative fuel programs in Elizabethton, Greeneville, and Kingsport. The partnership’s goal was to initiate a replicable autogas program that addresses infrastructure, vehicle conversion and maintenance, staff training, and data reporting. As a result of this project, the NET Trans fleet now uses autogas in their PRINS bi-fuel vehicle propane systems, with the fuel supplied through the ongoing relationship with Alliance AutoGas. Over the past year, Net Trans has used more than 50,000 gallons of autogas to fuel their transit fleet. Propane autogas is among the lowest total carbon emitting fuels, showing an approximate 30 percent reduction in emissions when compared to traditional gasoline and diesel vehicle operation. Additionally, the greater affordability of propane autogas has allowed NET Trans to save on fuel costs and put more funds toward projects that expand their transit services.