GreenDOT implementation: Putting policy into practice

By Mary Ebeling

In a July 2014 update on MassDOT’s ambitious GreenDOT program, we noted that the GreenDOT office had begun preparing the first in a series of “data- and performance-driven progress reports.” The first report, released in December, documents the key policy shifts, performance measures, and changes in the project selection and prioritization processes that are helping MassDOT achieve its sustainability goals.

In the first phase of implementation MassDOT approached GreenDOT as a broad strategy encouraging DOT divisions to conceive and implement ways of improving the transportation system’s environmental orientation and performance. During this period, MassDOT focused primarily on how it operates as an agency. The guiding document during this period was the GreenDOT Implementation Plan, which was developed as a means of engaging staff in a culture change effort designed to identify ways to operationalize GreenDOT principles. Through this process, MassDOT achieved notable early successes. It has improved intra-agency communication and coordination on sustainability issues, invested in more efficient fleet and transit vehicles, which are reducing fuel use and emissions, and dramatically expanded renewable energy generation across its divisions.

After these early internal successes, and following recommendations from a 2013 review by SSTI, GreenDOT now places greater emphasis on the public use of the transportation system and what can be done to influence mode split and vehicle miles traveled. This focus acknowledges that it is the use of the transportation system itself, rather than MassDOT’s own fleet, which accounts for far more GHG emissions.  This refocusing effort is zeroing in on activities that impact use of the transportation system, such as capital investment, system planning, project selection, and multimodal project design. It is also assessing the use, operation, and performance of the transportation system as a whole, as measured by vehicle miles traveled, fuel consumed, mode split, and overall transportation-sector GHG emissions. Making this change involved adopting new policies and directives to support this work. Some of the key policies, guides, and directives aiding the implementation of GreenDOT include:

MassDOT also has established the GreenDOT Advisory Group, which convenes MassDOT staff and external stakeholders to support continued development and implementation of GreenDOT. MassDOT continues to develop a performance management system for the GreenDOT Policy, focusing on continued refinement of performance measures, identification of data needs, and improvements to reporting and communication of progress on GreenDOT goals.

Session 305 at the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, includes a paper by SSTI and MassDOT on GreenDOT’s progress.

Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.