Director, Sustainability Initiatives
NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Company Twitter: @MTA
Please tell us your job responsibilities and day-to-day activities.
Projjal K. Dutta, is the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s first-ever director of sustainability. Projjal has pioneered “Transit Avoided Carbon” – a verifiably- measurable reduction in regional greenhouse gas emissions attributable to transit. This commodity, potentially worth billions of dollars in an emissions marketplace, can
completely re-contour the carbon landscape. The value of avoided emissions, from MTA service alone, may be as high as $500 million annually. Currently conversation
is at an advanced stage to transact the first-ever sale of such avoided-emissions, in the voluntary market.
Other than quantifying the environmental benefits of transit and seeking a market for them, Projjal has led several initiatives to reduce transit’s own environmental footprintchiefly through energy-consumption and greenhouse gas emission reduction initiatives. Emissions per passenger-mile have reduced by 16% in the previous five years, although it is not possible to accurately attribute overall reductions to individual initiatives in an organization as vast and complex as the MTA. Projjal has also led climate-resilience efforts at the agency; these have gained added urgency with Hurricane Sandy’s onslaught.
Tell us your biggest environmental/sustainability challenge in 2017 and how you are addressing it.
Making the MTA resilient to climate change is our biggest challenge. For the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), climate change is not only an urgent reality, it is a reality to which all six MTA agencies are already devoting extensive financial, planning, and engineering resources. There is no responsible alternative. The science of climate change is well established. The damages to New York’s transportation assets by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 gave the MTA no feasible option but to rebuild the system in anticipation of rising sea levels and increasingly volatile weather events. A disaster recovery budget of $10.5 billion was approved in 2013. This rebuilding effort is well underway. Some of the most badly damaged parts of the MTA network—such as MTA New York City Transit’s (NYCT’s) Montague Tube under the East River—were repaired, fortified, and returned to full revenue service with speed and efficiency.
Is there a specific recent project or implementation you worked on at your company that you can share? Any tips you can share that would help colleagues at other companies who are contemplating similar projects?
The opening to public the first phase of Second Avenue Subway, a brand new line under Manhattan, the first such line in over 70 years, was a headline project for the MTA. I was a proud member of the team when it first went on the preliminary design board, about 16 years ago, and as a consultant. Since then I have moved on board the MTA itself, and continued to be associated with the project. The first ride on the subway, therefore, was a goosebump providing moment.
Please tell us what you see in the market in the next few years. What will be the biggest challenges the industry will face?
The Federal Government, the withdrawing of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, and a general return to the days of fossil-fuel friendly policies signify the biggest challenge to sustainability and professionals who work toward making the world more sustainable. Much of the action, consequently, will happen at some, not all, state, regional, and local levels. Hopefully, unhindered by Federal policy.
Tell us about a favorite hobby, passion, or book you’ve read recently that has had an impact on you.
I like reading and traveling. Most recently I was a part of an official New York delegation to Berlin, Germany, to study how since 1992 Germany has moved to embrace green technologies and renewables, such that today almost 40% of all its energy is sourced from renewables, primarily wind and solar power. Although the naysayers had predicted that renewables as a fraction of the overall grid would never pass 5%, they are almost at 40%! On late evenings when there is not a lot of demand, as much as 80% of the grid can be powered by renewables. And Germany is not a small country or economy. This is inspiring.