What Sustainability Means to Carly Macias: improving air quality through low- to zero-emission vehicles

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) estimates that approximately 17.7% of the nation’s public transit fleet consists of electric hybrid buses. This is up from 4.9% in 2009. In addition, APTA estimates that about 320 all-electric buses are operating in the United States –36 by RTD.

Use of fossil fuels is on the decline while cleaner ­fuel sources are being adopted. Leading the charge for RTD is Senior Transportation Planner Carly Macias.

“Transit has always been a big part of my life. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was in my mid-twenties, and there was no Uber of Lyft back then,” she said, laughing.

Growing up in the San Diego area, she relied on public transit to get around. She left San Diego to earn her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from University of California Los Angeles, then moved farther east to receive a master of urban and regional planning from University of Colorado Denver. Macias started her career focusing on multimodal transportation, but her passion for public transportation kept shining through.

“I kept finding at the end of the day I cared the most about transit,” she said. “It was just meant to be.”

At RTD, Macias leads the Quality of Life study, which seeks to determine the impacts of FasTracks improvements on the region, including environmental, mobility, development, land use and economic activity. Future versions of the report will include sustainability metrics.

Macias is also developing the plan for transit electrification as part of Reimagine RTD, oversees vehicle electrification activities, and successfully negotiated a new rate structure with Xcel Energy for RTD’s electric vehicle (EV) fleet and other customers with electric vehicles.

Though her work largely covers EVs, Macias believes the goal for a sustainable future is to reduce emissions and that what we really need to be talking about are zero-emission vehicles. She’s most excited about hydrogen fuel cell buses that have longer ranges than EVs and potentially lower fueling costs. Other ways to lower carbon emissions could include incorporating more solar, enhancing recycling efforts and implementing a composting program at RTD.

Partnerships will also be critical in the future for achieving emission reduction goals, notes Macias. Up-front costs are always a challenge, so partnering with private sector companies with a shared vision can help make RTD sustainability goals that much more achievable.

What’s next for Macias? Seeking sustainability certifications. She also serves on the Colorado EV Coalition, is the WTS Colorado Student Outreach & Scholarship Co-Chair and is Vice Chair for the APTA Clean Propulsion Committee. If one person can get it all done, it’s Macias.