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Environmental Management System Guidance Document


An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a set of processes and practices for managing an organization’s environmental programs in a manner that systematically reduces an agencies environmental impacts and improves efficiency. EMS technology is being applied at transportation agencies across the country to help manage and optimize environmental services provided. A few studies have been performed on the implementation of EMSs in various transportation modes, but to date no comprehensive review of EMSs exists. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) performed an initial survey of EMS implementations at State departments of transportation (DOTs) in 2003 and followed up with an additional survey in 2006. The 2003 survey showed that 15% of the 47 responding states had implemented an EMS and 36% were developing or considering an EMS. By 2006, 26% of the responding states had implemented an EMS while 51% were developing or considering one. The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) has been providing training and technical assistance on how to build and implement an EMS since 2003. To date 36 transit agencies have participated in this program. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Volpe Center has independently evaluated the benefits gained from the implementation of an EMS on a subset of agencies that have completed the FTA’s program, and have shown mixed results. However, the Volpe document remains internal within FTA. Overall, there is no comprehensive review or assessment of the benefits to, and experiences of, agencies that have an EMS in practice and thus no resource that other agencies can look to for guidance on the creation, implementation, and use of an EMS. There is also a need to better understand the value of an EMS to ant agency with a focus on how agencies are prioritizing needs in the context of environmental performance, and how they are using an EMS to address other agency programs.


The objective of this research is to produce a guidance document that provides practical examples of how transportation agencies are using EMSs to address their operational issues and goals (e.g. improved efficiencies) in the context of an ISO compliant system (not necessarily certified to ISO standards).


Potential benefits of EMS implementation are to: reduce pollution, recover resources, and increase awareness of environmental issues efficiencies. This study will provide the background for incentives and policy changes for DOTs to implement more environmentally efficient operations.

With the ever-increasing desire for agencies and DOTs to minimize environmental impact as well as increase cost efficiencies, the need for methods to implement these changes is urgent. The proposed research can be used to understand and determine uniformity of EMS process and practice and use these best strategies to get cost efficiencies implemented within an agency. This research will help to document the benefits of an EMS to agencies encouraging others to follow. The potential payoff includes benefits such as pollution reductions, resource recovery, and increased management awareness of environmental issues.

Related Research:

1. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, 2003. ‘Using an Environmental Management System to Meet Transportation Challenges and Opportunities: An Implementation Guide’, http://environment.transportation.org/pdf/programs/ems_manual.pdf.

  1. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, 2006. ‘Environmental Management System Implementation Update’, http://environment.transportation.org/pdf/environmgmtsys/EMSreport.pdf.

This study should answer questions such as:

  • What type of risk-based system should be employed to consolidate data to prioritize environmental strategies and solutions?

  • What best practices or lessons learned can those with an EMS in place share with other agencies?

  • How are organizations using the EMS as a surrogate or a foundation for other agency programs such as security, asset management, and operational risk reduction?

Tasks required to complete this research include but are not limited to:

  • Research on the existing state of practice regarding EMS use for DOTs nationwide

  • Perform a cost-benefit analysis of EMS implementation

  • Provide results and recommendations for appropriate implementation of EMSs

Sponsoring Committee:AMS20, Resource Conservation and Recovery
Research Period:6 - 12 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Andrew Graettinger and Cris Liban
Source Info:Cris B. Liban, D. Env., P.E.
Executive Officer, Environmental Compliance and Sustainability
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 213-922-2471

Antoinette Quagliata LEED AP
Environmental Protection Specialist
Federal Transit Administration
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE / E45-339
Washington, DC 20590
Phone: 202-366-4265
Date Posted:12/20/2016
Date Modified:01/04/2017
Index Terms:Environmental impacts, State departments of transportation, Environmental policy, Technology, Implementation, Surveys, Technical assistance, Environmental risk assessment, Strategic planning,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Public Transportation
Maintenance and Preservation

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