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Transportation How-to for Municipalities

Reduce Transportation Costs and Energy Use

Note: All of the following links leave the DEC web site.

Using this How-to Page

This page provides how-to links and information to help local governments make their use of transportation more energy efficient and reduce fossil fuel consumption in vehicles used for municipal purposes. It is part of the Climate Smart Communities Guide for Local Action and is organized by the same topics as the Municipal Transportation Local Action Overview (listed as On This Page links at right).

Visitors to this website are invited to provide additional links and success stories -- telephone or email the Climate Smart Communities program at the numbers shown in the lower right hand corner of this page to contribute information for this Guide.

General information about transportation emission reduction is found in the Victoria Transport Policy Institute's Win-Win Emission Reduction Strategies (Once on this page, click on "Win Win Emission Reductions" link)

Funding Municipal Transportation Programs

Municipalities can obtain funding for programs that reduce emissions from transportation from a variety of sources. This web page will note these sources after discussing each type of emission-reduction program. Some information links accessed from this page also display funding information.

One funding source that may support a variety of local emission reduction programs is the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. CMAQ funding is available for capital investment to reduce emissions and for emission reduction programs, such as diesel engine retrofits, that reduce emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases. CMAQ solicitations are conducted every two years by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Reduce Emissions from Fleet Vehicles

To help municipalities identify the best opportunities for reducing energy use in municipal vehicles and locate financial assistance for converting to efficient vehicles or fleets, the links below access information about alternative fuel vehicles and sources offering financial support.

The most effective way to ensure implementation of green fleets is to pass a resolution, local law or executive order. Rockland County, for instance, initiated the greening of its municipal fleet with Local Law 4 of 2006, which included a timeline for converting the entire fleet to hybrids or AFVs by 2010. The county also prohibits idling of all vehicles for more than three minutes. Also, starting in 2015, Westchester County requires that all new vehicle purchases must be fuel-efficient vehicles, electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, or alternative-fuel vehicles.

Alternative-Fuel Vehicle Program

Alternative fuels and technologies include natural gas, propane, biodiesel, ethanol, electricity and hybrid-electric vehicles.

NYSERDA provides financial assistance and technical information to encourage fleets to purchase alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) and install fueling facilities or charging stations. Vehicles powered by natural gas, propane, and electricity, including certain hybrid-electric vehicles, are eligible under many of the programs NYSERDA offers. Incentives are available to encourage the use of bio-fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. NYSERDA also has programs to encourage the use of emission reduction technologies and anti-idling technologies for diesel vehicles.

Information and Incentives for AFVs, Infrastructure and Anti-Idling Technologies

NYSERDA's AFV program uses federal and state funding for the implementation of these projects and their associated infrastructure. These funds are distributed by competitive Program Opportunity Notices (PONs). Check the links below for the current status of these programs including available funds and deadlines for proposals.

Clean Fueled Bus Program

Incentive funds are available to state and local transit agencies, municipalities, and schools for up to 100% of the incremental vehicle cost and for directly associated infrastructure projects.

New York State Clean Cities Program

Clean Cities is a grassroots program funded by the US Department of Energy that supports local decision-making to achieve the goal of reducing its petroleum use. The Program has produced the Plug-In Electric Vehicle Handbook designed specifically to provide fleet managers with information on plug-in vehicles, and other topics. Funds are also awarded on a competitive basis to fleets for the incremental costs of alternative-fuel vehicles, hybrid vehicles, the cost of installing fueling and recharging equipment, and the incremental costs associated with bulk alternative fuel purchases or contracts to purchase alternative fuels such as E-85 or biodiesel. Funds can also be used for idle reduction and fuel economy initiatives.

Biofuel Fueling Infrastructure Funding and Biofuel Production Tax Credit

These programs provide funding to retail fueling facility owners to dispense E85 ethanol and blended biodiesel (biofuels), and to petroleum terminal operators to store, blend, and dispense biofuels. Partially funded by the US Department of Energy, the objectives of these programs are to increase biofuel production, the number of retail E85 and blended biodiesel (biofuels) service stations in New York State and to increase the number of petroleum terminals that offer renewable fuels such as ethanol or B100 biodiesel (biofuels) to retail refueling stations and fleets throughout New York.

Alternative Fuel Tax Exemption and Rate Reduction

Until September 1, 2014, alternative fuel (CNG, hydrogen and E85) that is used to operate a motor vehicle engine is exempt from state sales and use taxes. Cities and counties may also reduce the sales and use tax imposed on 20% biodiesel blends (B20) to 80% of the diesel fuel tax rate.

Help Employees to Drive Less

Greenhouse gases attributable to municipal operations include those emitted when local government employees drive to work and when they use vehicles to perform their duties. Reducing these emissions and the fuel use that causes them will save money for local governments and for employees.

Transportation Demand Management

Employee commuting is a prime target for reducing miles driven (vehicle miles traveled, or VMT). Local governments are well positioned to help their employees reduce VMT by managing transportation demand. Transportation demand management can be implemented as a comprehensive program to combine policy options and coordinate travel within local government operations.

Rideshare and Carpooling Programs

Rideshare programs reduce the number of vehicles on the road by promoting multiple occupancy for vehicles driven. These programs facilitate participation by connecting drivers with similar destinations via a web-based portal. Several rideshare programs in New York are operated by Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO). Like ridesharing, carpooling promotes multiple occupancy of vehicles. Local governments can help employees develop carpools by using Geographic Information System (GIS) or other mapping software to generate maps of the locations of municipal workplaces and (anonymously) the locations of employees' homes. Employees who wish to carpool can find their locations on the map and place markers that provide their contact information. Many local and regional organizations help promote ridesharing and carpooling.

Clean Pass Program

For travelers on the Long Island Expressway, eligible electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles may use the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes regardless of amount of occupants. The Clean Pass sticker must be displayed.

Alternative work schedules

Alternative work schedules can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in two ways: compressed work schedules reduce the vehicle miles traveled by each commuting employee; staggered shifts and flextime reduce road congestion during peak traffic hours, reducing emissions generated when traffic is slowed or stopped.

  • Compressed Workweek - Employees work fewer but longer days, typically four 10-hour days each week (4/40), or 9-hour days with one day off every two weeks (9/80).
  • Staggered Shifts - Shifts are timed to reduce the number of employees arriving and leaving a work site at once. For example, some shifts may be 8:00 to 4:30, others 8:30 to 5:00, and others 9:00 to 5:30. This has a similar effect on traffic as flextime but does not give individual employees as much control over their schedules.
  • Flextime - Employees are allowed some flexibility in their daily work schedules. For example, rather than all employees working 8:00 to 4:30, some might work 7:30 to 4:00, and others 9:00 to 5:30.

More information on alternative work schedules can be found in the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute's Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Encyclopedia

Employee parking programs

USEPA estimates that employee parking programs can reduce VMT to work sites by 12 to 39 percent, chiefly by making it easier for employees to use public transit. Parking options include:

  • Parking Cash Out - Offers commuters the option to choose among a free parking space, a monthly transit pass, vanpool subsidies or a sum of cash per month. According to the Victoria Transportation Policy Institute, Parking Cash Out typically reduces automobile commuting by 10 to 30 percent.
  • Parking Pricing - Provides a reverse incentive by charging commuters for parking. Parking pricing has been shown to shift up to 10 percent of the workforce away from single occupancy vehicles, reducing total VMT by 5 to 10 percent.
  • Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit - Publication 15-B explains the fringe benefit that allows employees to set aside pretax income to pay for mass transit fares.

Car-sharing networks, private organizations that make low-emission vehicles available for short periods of time, are popping up in communities across New York State, often with encouragement by local governments.

Car-sharing programs run by local non-governmental organizations operate in Syracuse, Buffalo and the City of Ithaca.

Optimize Traffic Signal Timing

Optimizing the timing of traffic signals can reduce unnecessary emissions and fuel use. Local governments optimize traffic-signal timing by:

  • Removing unneeded signals
  • Developing and implementing signal-timing plans to account for changes in traffic flow
  • Adding traffic detectors to side streets to enable traffic progression through the system
  • Installing new signal equipment, such as solid state electronic controllers, to implement advanced traffic-control techniques
  • Managing signals remotely from a central location
  • Coordinating signal operations across jurisdictional boundaries
  • Properly installing and maintaining equipment

Traffic signal timing is often uncoordinated due to overlapping jurisdictional boundaries on roadways. Successful traffic signal optimization may require a collaborative effort between local and state jurisdictions that share roadways.

Community and Rural Development Institute (CaRDI) at Cornell University Toolbox on community economic and development tools includes information on Traffic Signal Management.

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Establish an Anti-Idling Campaign

Idling an internal combustion engine for an hour burns a gallon of fuel and emits 22 lb of heat-trapping CO2. New York State law and regulation prohibit idling heavy duty trucks and buses for more than five consecutive minutes. (See link on right.)

Local Anti-Idling Legislation and Programs

Local governments have the authority to restrict idling within their borders and to set more stringent standards than state and federal governments. Municipalities can establish anti-idling laws governing municipal vehicles or all vehicles, and can institute anti-idling programs that include public education and law enforcement.

Enforcement and public awareness are crucial to the success of anti-idling laws. The Center for Clean Air Policy has identified methods to encourage compliance with anti-idling laws through public outreach and enforcement:

  • Public education- including signage and literature that inform the public about the law and about the environmental damage, waste and health effect of emissions caused by idling
  • Penalties, such as fines, for idling infractions
  • Enforcement, especially targeted in areas or locations (such as rest stops or schools) where idling is common
Further Information on Local Anti-Idling Programs
  • A Municipal Official's Guide to Diesel Idling Reduction in New York State, prepared by the New York Planning Federation, provides information on instituting an anti-idling program for heavy duty diesel vehicles. Scroll down to R&D Technical Reports - Transportation, then look for the title in the list below.
  • EPA has compiled a list of State, County and Local Anti-Idling Regulations.
  • Idle-Free VT Inc. is a Vermont incorporated non-profit grassroots campaign formed to address the issue of unnecessary vehicle idling. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the negative impacts of vehicular idling and to advocate for the enactment of Vermont idling legislation through public eduacation, forming coalitions, petitioning, working with legislators, and encouraging local activism and advocacy (town ordinances or resolutions and school policies).

Idle Reduction Technology for Service Vehicles and School Buses

Idle reduction technologies, which keep the vehicle and engine warm with less fuel than conventional idling, may have application for school buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. The technologies are:

  • Fuel operated heaters: Coolant heaters use the vehicle's regular heat-transfer system. A heater mounted in the engine compartment draws gasoline or diesel from the fuel tank to heat the vehicle's coolant and pumps the heated coolant through the engine, radiator, and heater box. Webasto and Espar manufacture coolant heaters appropriate for diesel and gasoline light-duty vehicles. These units cost $1,580 to $3,030 installed and use only one cup per hour of fuel compared with one gallon per hour typically used idling an engine.
  • Automatic Shut-Down/Start-Up Systems: Electronic diesel vehicles can shut down the engine after a set time period. This requires manipulating the engine control module.

EPA's Smart Way Technology Program: Website provides further information about idle reduction technologies.

Idle Reduction Weight Exemption

To encourage the use of idle reduction technology, any motor vehicle equipped with this device may exceed the state's vehicle weight limits by up to 400 pounds to compensate for the addtional weight.

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