How SouthWest Transit plans to be carbon neutral by 2050

transit bus on downtown city street

When the transit agency that serves the southwest Twin Cities needed a strategy and tactics for implementing its sustainability goals, LHB brought a plan to the table.

LHB’s Climate Solutions studio has worked with many local governments on sustainability and climate action planning. As more organizations commit to emissions reduction goals, the studio is expanding to support developers, institutions, and agencies such as SouthWest Transit. For example, LHB recently completed a sustainability action plan for SWT, which offers bus service from Eden Prairie, where it is headquartered, to downtown Minneapolis, the U, and several other locations. The agency also serves Chanhassen, Chaska, and Carver. 

Matt Fyten, interim CEO of SWT, says his organization contacted LHB last fall at the suggestion of Eden Prairie officials. Two years ago, the city adopted a climate action plan developed by LHB with the overall goal of achieving community-wide carbon neutrality by 2050. SWT had already undertaken some small steps to improve sustainability—transitioning to LED lighting and subscribing to a solar garden—but managers lacked a clear roadmap. “You hear fluffy words about sustainability, but how does that apply to our operations?” Fyten says. “It was helpful to have LHB package everything together and put in a workable timeline with clear objectives, roles, and responsibilities. Having an action plan is hugely beneficial.” 

LHB’s plan, authored by Becky Alexander, outlines an ambitious science-based strategy for reaching SWT’s goal of achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. Tactics include: energy audits and retrofits to decrease building energy use; installation of solar photovoltaics and energy storage units to shift to renewable electricity; and fleet electrification. “They’ve already lowered GHGs significantly by shifting from large buses to small ones,” Alexander says. “The actions laid out over the next 10 years will drive even greater reductions.” 

Perhaps not surprisingly, SWT’s actions have piqued peer interest. Fyten says he was recently contacted by managers at Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, which serves seven cities in the southern Twin Cities, about the plan. “It’s having a ripple effect,” Fyten says. “And MVTA is twice the size of our agency, so the impact would be even bigger.” 

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