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‘I knew I had a lot more to give’: Craig Cipriano’s net-zero journey

Building on the work he did in the sustainable transport space for New York City’s MTA, Craig is now National Director of Zero Emissions Mobility for STV – and Gov Kandola heard all about his career path and work on this Venari Podcast episode

 

Craig Cipriano has a good analogy for the challenge of transitioning to zero-carbon transport. ‘We’re building a plane and flying it at the same time. In other words, we’re implementing zero-emission technology while this technology is maturing.’

 

Still, it’s a test that Craig is more than up for. After almost 35 years working for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City, he is now National Director of Zero Emissions Mobility at the engineering company STV. Craig is working on some really exciting projects – so of course Gov Kandola, our Senior Transport & Logistics Consultant, was keen to invite him to speak on the Venari Podcast’s Sustainability Series.

 

Read on to discover more about Craig’s career, how STV are approaching the green energy revolution, Craig’s predictions for the net-zero future and more!




 

Making public transport sustainable

Craig has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stony Brook University and a master’s in city and Regional Planning from Rutgers. Towards the end of his career at the MTA, he led New York City’s bus programme – including during the pandemic – and reached the role of Chief Operating Officer before he retired last year.

 

Overseeing the MTA’s campaign to transition to a fully zero-emission bus fleet by 2040 – encompassing 6,000 vehicles across 28 locations – ignited Craig’s passion for sustainability. ‘When it came time to retire from the public sector, I knew that I had a lot more to give,’ he notes. ‘I really felt that STV was the right fit for me. The people, the culture – it really is a tremendous place to work.’

 

STV’s work

STV is a professional services firm focusing on infrastructure architecture, employing almost 3,000 people in 55 locations across the United States and Canada. The idea that infrastructure is local is key to the company’s mission. They pair specialist technicians with expert project managers ‘to provide our clients and their communities with what they need,’ as Craig puts it. This includes working with LA Metro and New Jersey Transit on transition and master planning, designing bus depots and operations in cities such as New York and Boston, and programme, construction management, and decarbonisation for Dallas Fort Worth Airport.

 

These are busy, exciting times for STV – and their zero-emissions programme is yet another example of the company’s ambitious vision. Craig describes the net-zero landscape as an ecosystem of ‘funding, power, and fleet,’ with STV supplying their own upfront and safety planning and environmental justice professionals ‘to provide our clients with what they really need.’

 

Obstacles to net zero

However, the path to net zero is certainly not without its challenges. Administering zero-emission technology as the technology matures is difficult, Craig admits, making it all the more important to maintain the level of service STV’s customers and communities expect as the company boosts and rolls out its sustainable offering.

 

The pace of change is another complicating factor, ‘both internally to a fleet operator as well as externally for our customers,’ Craig says; today’s diesel mechanics will likely be tomorrow’s electrical maintainers. ‘It’s really a change management effort; workforce development is critical.’ He cites STV’s ‘industry-leading energy model,’ providing clients with information about how to apply current technology while also looking ‘ahead on how the mattery maturation will happen, so that in the next 10-15 years, our clients are able to use the technology as it’s maturing.’

 

Craig also mentions the company’s dedicated economics practice, which helps clients with grant applications – a service all the more important given the rapidly shifting sustainability market. The past few years have been turbulent, between COVID, manufacturers leaving the industry, consolidations, and supply chain difficulties. While Craig notes that investment has come from both federal and local governments, he observes that ‘this is a long-term effort – 15, 20, 25 years. We have to look ahead and make sure that this money keeps flowing.’

 

The regulatory landscape

Of course, regulatory compliance is a huge issue in sustainability – and Craig is adamant that advocacy in this area is crucial for both public and private sectors for ‘the greater good of our environment’. It’s a topic that bring collaboration between public and private companies – ‘we need to be part of that discussion,’ Craig says – and a key component in getting industry where it has to be to meet its sustainable goals.

 

‘All this bubbles up to the policymakers so that they have the best information to make those high-level policy decisions,’ Craig explains, ‘and shift both the funding and the policy to where it’s needed to get us to our ultimate goals.’

 

Career opportunities

The increase in federal and state funding has helped to give companies in the transport and logistics space in the US extra momentum – not to mention widen the job options for a host of professionals considering their next career move. This can make hiring and retaining talent challenging, though Craig notes that at STV ‘we put people up front.’

 

For instance, their Early Career Professionals programme provides training, networking, and mentorship for graduate hires, which certainly helps with retention and career development. He encourages anyone interested in learning more to check out the company’s website or LinkedIn: ‘We have plenty of postings’.


Looking ahead

What future initiatives does Craig predict, not just from STV but the industry at large? For public transport, it’s important to note that the shift from pilot schemes to full-scale initiatives is well underway; companies that began with green transitions for a small number of vehicles are now looking ahead. ‘How do I now decarbonise the next 500 – or, in my case, the next 6,000 – buses? That’s quite a challenge.’

 

Such projects require plenty of planning and synergy between funding, infrastructure, workforce development and change management – and Craig foresees plenty more of this for the public transit industry as a whole. He also points to a change from electric battery-powered buses to examining ‘the right mix between fuel-cell electric buses and battery electric’, thanks to increased funding for US hydrogen hubs.

 

Indeed, extra money flowing to ports, schools, buses, airports, and trucks will also see further innovation – making it yet more vital for STV to stay nimble and flexible. ‘We want to take all those lessons learned from our vast experience on the public transit side and bring them over to other sectors so that we can help our clients deliver what they need,’ Craig says.

 

We’ll look forward to keeping up with STV’s moves in this space – many thanks again to Craig for sharing these valuable insights!

 

We are experts in providing sustainable talent solutions to transport and logistics companies – reach out if you’d like to find out more.

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