Three Chattanooga programs honored for sustainable transportation [photos]

Esteban Torres, master trainer at Covenant Transport, shows how the IdleAir system is installed into the truck window Friday, May 26, 2017, at Covenant Transport in Chattanooga, Tenn. Covenant's IdleAir program recently won a state sustainable transportation award.


2017 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Award winners› CARTA: Solar-assisted vehicle charging and car share› Chattanooga-Hamilton County-North Georgia TPO: Green Trips program› City of Johnson City: Tweetsie Trail rails-to-trails project› IdleAir and Covenant Transportation Group Inc.: Truck stop electrification› Knox County Engineering/Public Works: Walk to School improvement project› Memphis Light, Gas and Water: Public access CNG refueling stations› Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority: CNG parking shuttle buses› Metro Nashville-Davidson Public Works: 46th Avenue-Murphy Road roundabout and streetscape› TDOT: Fast Fix 8 accelerated bridge construction project› The TMA Group: VanStar regional commuter vanpool program› UPS: UPS Rolling Laboratory

Three Chattanooga programs have been named winners of 2017 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards.

CARTA's solar-assisted electric vehicle charging and car share network, the Green Trips program and Covenant Transportation's IdleAir truck stop electrification were among 11 winners announced Wednesday.

The awards "recognize outstanding initiatives to improve the efficiency, accessibility, affordability and sustainability of transportation systems in the state," spokeswoman Kim Schofinski wrote in a joint news release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said by phone Wednesday that sustainable transportation programs have helped the state's environment. "Since 2000, during a period of historic growth for Tennessee, pollutants have decreased and our air has become cleaner. Currently, the entire state is designated [in] attainment for the federal ozone standard."

"Air quality keeps getting better despite the drastic increase in vehicle miles traveled in the last 20 years," Martineau said. He noted that all of Tennessee is designated as being in attainment with federal ozone standards.

He added that Chattanooga "certainly has been in the forefront" with its downtown electric buses and now with Green Trips and other sustainable transportation programs.

"We want to recognize what Chattanooga and other communities are doing," including a variety of approaches in the public and private sectors, he said.

"It doesn't have to be the perfect cure-all - every city can take little steps to move along that's the key, is to take those baby steps," he said.

Covenant has directly contributed to the effort, TDEC said, offsetting a total of 338.4 tons of airborne pollutants with its IdleAir truck stop electrification program.

The trucking company installed a terminal that supplies electricity to up to 20 trucks so drivers can run their onboard appliances, use Wi-Fi and keep warm or cool as they wait on loads or take mandatory rest breaks. That saves fuel - one hour of idling uses about a gallon of diesel - and reduces pollution. The East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition partnered with Covenant to obtain a Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant from EPA in 2014 to fund the program.

"By adopting TSE technology and other fuel- saving measures, Covenant Transport has proven itself a leader in environmental stewardship and promotion of driver health and safety," the news release said.

Kerry Finley, senior corporate tax manager for Covenant Transportation Group Inc., said the service is free to drivers, and the negotiated cost per hour to run the program is "far less than the cost of the fuel saved."

"To me it is a win for the environment, a win for the drivers, and a win for the company," Finley said.

Rob Hatchett, vice president for communications and recruiting, said Covenant is so happy with IdleAir it's bringing the technology to its locations in Texarkana and Hutchins, Texas, and Pomona, Calif.

Green Trips

The Green Trips program of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County-North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization has avoided more than 2.1 million pounds of airborne pollution and over 3.1 million miles of single- occupant vehicle driving in its first three years, the news release stated.

Green Trips seeks to manage transportation demand by helping people find alternatives to driving everywhere. Members can earn prizes for walking, cycling, carpooling, taking public transportation or other alternatives. Green Trips software can help people find carpools or transit options for their commutes.

"Not everyone lives in a place where they can just grab their bike and bike to work every day," said Jonathan Gibbons, who works with the program and was in Nashville on Wednesday to receive the award.

"In other places, carpooling might be much better. Options work best - giving people options and making sure people are aware of all the great ways we have to get around Chattanooga."

Gibbons said Green Trips enrolled 1,700 members in its first three years and has gotten funding for another three years. He said a new software vendor is getting ready to upgrade the Green Trips website with new options and incentives.

Solar-assisted charging

CARTA was honored for installing a solar-assisted electric vehicle charging system with 56 charging ports in 20 locations on its transit routes, along with the state's first all-electric public car share system. Twenty Nissan LEAFs are available for hourly and daily rentals to serve the central business district, employment and residential areas, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Southern Adventist University, and to complement transit and bike-share networks, the release said.

Philip Pugliese, CARTA transportation system planner, said power from three solar installations is sold to TVA to compensate for the cost of operating the electric vehicles in the Green Commuter program.

The charging stations are at various locations including the airport, Memorial and Erlanger East hospitals, the Riverpark, near UTC and the Incline Railway. The LEAF vehicles take up some of the spaces, but others are available to the public.

He said about 200 people have signed up for Green Commuter in the system's first month, and usage has been "very robust" at Southern in particular.

Besides giving people the opportunity to drive an electric vehicle, Pugliese said, "This was an opportunity to build out on, really, a system of multimodal transportation" involving cars, buses, bikes and other options.

"All of these pieces together we feel give people the greatest variety of choices in how they move about."

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at or 423-757-6416.