The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. New York City’s school bus system transports about 150,000 students daily.
In New York City, low-income communities and communities of color are exposed to higher levels of air pollution compared to other communities. The addition of pollution from buses adds another concern for these communities. The high exposure of air pollution leads to respiratory health illnesses like asthma and bronchitis. In order to improve air quality in our most vulnerable neighborhoods, our school buses should be electric. Electric school buses provide a host of potential benefits to the quality of service, health, environment, and utility infrastructure. The initiative to require all school buses to be electric is a step in the right direction to alleviate the unequal distribution of harmful air pollution.
In April 2021, the New York City Mayor committed to an all-electric school bus fleet for the city by 2035. But this needed to be codified into law. As part of the NYC Clean School Bus Coalition, WE ACT for Environmental Justice began to campaign for Intro 455-2018, a local law to amend the Administrative Code of the City of New York in relation to age limitations on school buses and replacing such school buses with all electric school buses. And on October 7, 2021, the New York City Council passed this legislation, with the Mayor signing it into law – Local Law 120 0f 2021 – on November 7, 2021, mandating that school buses serving New York City public schools be all-electric by September 1, 2035.
Now we are focused on ensuring this law is funded, implemented, and enforced. We have also joined a national coalition, the Alliance for Electric School Buses, and serve on the steering committee, working to advance similar legislation in other states and at the federal level. And you can read an Op-Ed we co-authored last year, making the case for replacing dirty diesel school buses with electric school buses to stop poisoning our children, bus drivers, and the communities they live in with deadly diesel fumes. Read the Op-Ed here.