Taken by Bryan Tuttle

On Oct. 4, the city of Riverside was ranked number one in the Government Green Fleets category during the Green Fleet Conference, due to its success in reducing public-sector vehicle emissions.

Among the criteria for selection were “standards in fleet composition, fuel and emissions, policy planning, fleet utilization, education, executive and employee involvement, and supporting programs,” according to Government Fleet, a publication focusing on public-sector vehicle fleets. The organization gave out forty awards to qualifying organizations across the United States. The city of Riverside received the top prize, but other institutions throughout Southern California were recognized as well, including the cities of Santa Ana, Long Beach, and Huntington Beach, which placed eleventh, twelfth, and thirtieth, respectively. Also recognized were the state of California’s Department of General Services and the University of California, San Diego.

In addition to the achievements made by the city, the county of Riverside was also recognized for its sustainable practices. The county’s Parking and Fleet Services earned its own spot in the Government Green Fleet category, and their director, Robert Howdyshell, was recognized as one of 40 Sustainability All-Stars. Lauren Fletcher, managing editor of Green Fleet Magazine, lauded Howdyshell and others in a press release, praising them for “[reducing] greenhouse emissions, [creating] green fleet and sustainable policies and [dedicating] their time and energy to ensuring the path to sustainability is clear.”

The Green Fleet Conference is an annual meeting of professionals who work in the transportation sector, public or private. The conference is designed to showcase advances in clean vehicles and provide attendees with strategies to implement transportation systems that function in awareness of the environment. Hundreds of people from across the United States attended the two-day conference in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Riverside’s first place ranking among the participants in the Government Green Fleets category reflects positively on the city’s pursuit of environmental sustainability. Under the mayoralty of Ron Loveridge, the city of Riverside increased its emphasis on sustainable development and livability. In 2001, the city first began to implement a number of new environmental policies, including the installation of light-emitting diodes in the city’s traffic lights to reduce electricity consumption. This was followed by the 2007 release of the city’s Green Action Plan, a report highlighting the most significant problems facing the city of Riverside and outlining strategies to combat them. One of the largest transportation-related goals included an expanded use of clean fleet vehicles.

Transportation-related issues alone cover nearly a fourth of the goals established in Riverside’s Green Action Plan and are some of the most significant issues affecting southern California. Smart Growth America, an organization that protects agricultural plots, renovates communities and lowers the cost of housing, states the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area as the region with the greatest level of urban sprawl out of 83 metropolitan areas surveyed throughout the United States.

Data from a 2002 California Bureau of Transportation Statistics report shows an extremely high level of commuter traffic throughout the Riverside-San Bernardino area, which racks up 32,876 daily vehicle-miles of travel—roughly 3,000 more than the almost equally populated city of Sacramento. In daily vehicle-miles of travel per capita, Riverside ranks second out of 37 urbanized areas in California. The Riverside-San Bernardino area has more traffic per freeway lane mile than any other urban area in the state with the exception of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Given the unique flow of commuter traffic, transportation issues are still an important focus in Riverside’s updated Green Action Plan. To decrease emissions and reduce consumer reliance on gasoline, electric vehicle chargers will be installed at public venues, along with new fueling stations, which consists of compressed natural gas. But some transit goals remain on the Green Action Plan from the previous version and are apparently as of yet unrecognized. Among these are the synchronization of traffic signals to decrease traffic congestion and the implementation of a transportation program between the region’s educational institutions.

In addition to Riverside’s recognition at the Green Fleet Conference, the city has also received a silver ranking from the California Green Communities Challenge for its sustainability programs. Riverside Public Utilities also earned a gold award from the International Economic Development Council for lowering citizens’ energy costs.

Though Riverside has received accolades for its advances in sustainability, projects are poised to continue through a number of local partnerships. Green Riverside states that the city now generates five megawatts of electricity through solar power alone, as one of many ongoing projects. The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA), which operates natural gas-fuelled buses throughout Riverside County, has also received a $2.4 million grant from the federal government as part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Clean Fuels Grant Program, according to a report by Metro Magazine. The funds will be used to eventually replace the entire fleet of RTA buses.