The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the LIRR's diesel trains will be...

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority says the LIRR's diesel trains will be upgraded as part of plans to cut the MTA's greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The MTA on Thursday announced plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 85% over the next 17 years, but gave no indication that it would reduce its use of diesel locomotives on Long Island.

In celebration of Earth Day, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials and New York City elected leaders outlined the transit agency’s greenhouse emissions goal, which outpaces the state’s mandate to cut emissions by 85% by 2050.

MTA officials said a key goal of its climate initiative is to maintain and grow ridership, as the 2 million tons of carbon currently emitted by the agency each year is more than offset by the 22 million tons that would be added if transit riders drove instead.

“The most important thing that we can do is to keep attracting more riders to transit, keeping them out of cars. Riding Metro-North or the Long Island Rail Road is six times as carbon efficient as driving,” MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said.

One major way the MTA plans to cut its emissions is converting its entire bus fleet to electric vehicles by 2040. Jamie Torres-Springer, president of MTA Capital Construction, said other strategies include installing more solar panels in MTA facilities, LED lights on bridges, and remote controls for third-rail heaters for subway tracks. The agency is also testing a system that would store and reuse energy when the brakes are applied on subway trains.

Torres-Springer offered few details on how the LIRR would become greener, other than to say the railroad has plans for “upgrading” its fleet of diesel trains to reduce their emissions by up to 97%. Torres-Springer said the MTA would continue to invest in “dual mode” LIRR locomotives, that can operate on both diesel power and electrified third rails.

Environmentalists have long called on the LIRR to phase out its diesels by further electrifying its territory, particularly in Suffolk County. The MTA has suggested such an effort would be too costly, and could require building on private property. 

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