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Environmental sustainability

Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

A founding signatory to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Sustainability Commitment, Metro is committed to adopting core processes that ensure ongoing environmental, social, and economic sustainability practices are continually improved over time.

In 2013, Metro received gold-level recognition from APTA based on a review of sustainability indicators, and is one of only twelve transit agencies in the country to achieve gold-level status (as of March 2014).  At Metro, we address sustainability in terms of both the services we provide and how we operate.

Community benefits

Transportation accounts for nearly half of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Washington. As the largest public transportation provider in the Puget Sound region, Metro plays a key role in reducing the number of single-occupant vehicles on the road and associated pollution.

Metro displaces roughly four times more GHG emissions than it generates — a net displacement of approximately 600,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e) each year — by taking cars off the road, reducing traffic congestion, and facilitating more efficient land use.

Metro’s service guidelines identify areas of population and employment growth priority for increased transit service. Metro is also working with local jurisdictions to update obsolete parking standards to encourage more transit and pedestrian-friendly development, and participates actively in the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Growing Transit Communities initiative working to locate housing, jobs and services close to transit.

Sustainable operations

King County policies and plans provide direction for reducing Metro’s environmental footprint, with a strong emphasis on energy resources, GHG emissions and sustainable buildings/development. Metro released its first Sustainability Plan in early 2014 with specific goals related to:

  • Energy efficiency and conservation
  • Climate pollution reduction
  • Water conservation
  • Waste management
  • Building ridership

Metro has aggressively pursued opportunities for resource conservation, completing various lighting and HVAC upgrades, utilizing an innovative "cyclone" recycling system for cleaning buses, and attaining LEED certification for all buildings constructed since 2007. 

Metro initiated an Environmental Sustainability Management System (ESMS) at the South Base and Component Supply Center campus in 2011.  Metro staff actively participates on several county committees, including the Energy Task Force, Green Building Team and the Department of Transportation’s Equity and Social Justice team.

Vehicle technology

Metro's motorbus fleet consists of diesel-electric hybrid, electric trolley and diesel buses. As of June 2015, approximately 70% of Metro's bus fleet was comprised of zero emission electric trolleys or diesel-electric hybrids. Metro's motorbus fleet is projected to be 100% hybrid or electric by 2018. These hybrid buses are up to 30 percent more fuel efficient than the diesels being replaced.

Advancements in technology & innovation

  • Trolley Fleet Replacement
    Metro operates the second largest zero-emission, electric trolley bus system in the country with routes throughout King County. Metro is currently replacing its existing fleet of aging trolley buses with new buses that have regenerative braking and the ability to operate off-wire on battery power for short distances – reducing the need to substitute diesel and hybrid buses when construction affects routes along electric bus corridors.
  • Battery Bus Pilot Project
    Metro is testing an all-electric battery-powered bus with federal grant funds. Like the latest generation electric trolleys, battery-powered buses are more energy-efficient than internal combustion powered vehicles and hybrids.
  • Electric Vehicle Subcomponents
    Metro is initiating the use of electric subcomponents on transit vehicles by replacing components that are traditionally driven off belts and gears from the engine, such as cooling fans. Electric engine fan cooling systems are expected to improve fuel efficiency on buses by up to five percent. Additional benefits associated with these upgrades include better reliability, lower emissions, easier maintenance, and improved bus performance.
  • Start-Stop Technology
    Metro is deploying new diesel-electric hybrid coaches that, when stopped, turn the engine off and switch to battery power to reduce fuel use (similar to a hybrid passenger car).

Commuter vans

Metro’s Commuter Van Program is the largest publicly owned and operated rideshare commuter van program in the country. In 2014 the number of commuter vans in revenue service increased 3.4 percent to 1,412 vehicles.

The commuter van fleet eliminated over 54 million vehicle miles traveled from Puget Sound roads and reduced approximately 21,000 metric tons of GHG emissions in 2014. This includes Metro’s all-electric, zero emissions metropool vehicles. A total of 25 new five-passenger Nissan LEAFs were added to the Commuter Van Program from 2011-2013 to establish the metropool fleet.


Feasibility of Achieving a Carbon-Neutral or Zero-Emission Fleet (2017)

A report detailing how Metro Transit can transition to a completely zero-emission bus fleet as early as 2034.

2014 Sustainability Plan Progress Report

2014 summary of achievements and progress meeting goals identified in Metro's Sustainability Plan.

Press release: King County launches next generation of electric trolleys and previews new battery-powered bus (2015)

For the first time in nearly three decades, King County Metro riders will enjoy completely new state-of-the-art electric trolleys in downtown Seattle and nearby neighborhoods.

Sustainability Fact Sheet (2015)

How Metro is protecting our region's environment.

2013 Sustainability Plan Progress Report

2013 summary of achievements and progress meeting goals identified in Metro's Sustainability Plan.

Press release: Metro will use a federal grant to test battery-powered, zero-emission buses (2014)

Executive Constantine is taking action to ensure Metro remains one of the greenest major transit agencies in the nation, authorizing Metro to test new battery-powered, zero-emission buses.

Metro Sustainability Plan (2014)

Metro's plan addresses energy conservation, climate change, waste reduction, green building and sustainable purchasing practices.

2013 Annual Sustainability Report

2013 report of King County's climate change, energy, green building and environmental purchasing programs.

Metro Transit grabs a gold for its actions to protect the environment (2013)

King County Metro is not only getting you there, it’s doing it with less energy, waste and pollution – reasons it is being recognized as the gold-standard for sustainability by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

2012 Annual Sustainability Report

2012 report of King County's climate change, energy, green building and environmental purchasing programs.

2012 King County Strategic Climate Action Plan

The SCAP outlines King County’s most critical goals, objectives, strategies and priority actions to reduce GHG emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.

2010 King County Energy Plan

Provides a detailed roadmap for implementing the King County Strategic Plan, building on the County’s past efforts to improve energy efficiency, and expanding the use and production of renewable and greenhouse gas-neutral energy.