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New Report: Electric Buses Drive Healthier Communities

Report released as California considers requiring all transit buses to be electric by 2040
For Immediate Release

A new report from Environment California Research & Policy Center, CALPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group shows that if the state’s seven largest transit agencies replace their 3,130 diesel buses with electric buses, it would be like taking more than 34,000 cars off the road each year, when it comes to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing toxic air pollution.

“There’s no reason why we should be running dirty, polluting buses that contribute to global warming in our communities when we have better, cleaner options,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy and transportation program director for Environment California Research & Policy Center. “Our research shows that whether commuters are on or boarding the bus, they’re exposed to toxic air in high concentrations.” 

The environmental and public health benefits would increase if the state also transitioned natural gas buses to electric. Natural gas buses, because they have low fuel economy, are likely to emit even more life-cycle greenhouse gases than their diesel equivalents. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is incorporating that information into its long-term plans: Earlier this week, CARB issued a proposed rule that would require all transit buses in California to be zero-emission by 2040.

“Moving California to a clean zero-emission transit fleet by 2040 is essential to making our air healthier and reaching our aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals,” said John Gioia, Contra Costa County Supervisor and California Air Resources Board Member. “We’re proud of the clean technology innovators here in California who are prepared to step up and create new jobs to meet this 2040 goal."

Electric bus manufacturer Proterra is one of those California-based innovators. The company’s chief legal officer JoAnn Covington noted that “Electric vehicle technology has come a long way in a short period of time – outperforming fossil fuel-based incumbents in every major category from performance, efficiency and passenger comfort to total cost of ownership." 

Nick Josefowitz, a San Francisco MTC Commissioner and BART Board member who has advocated for the electrification of transit fleets, added, “This report makes clear why we must transition to electric buses now. The technology is maturing, the public health benefits are clear, and there is substantial funding available from the state to facilitate this transition. There's really no reason for San Francisco or any other transit agency in the Bay Area or California to buy another diesel bus."

The report identifies several ways that California can pay for the transition to electric buses, including using Volkswagen settlement funds, state and federal grants, and utility investments. Over the past month alone, California transit and state agencies have taken bold action:

  • The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) recently committed to transitioning its full fleet of buses to zero-emission buses by 2035.
  • The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to invest $130 million dollars from the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” settlement to purchase zero emission transit buses, school buses, and shuttle buses.
  • The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) made a historic $760 million investment in electric charging infrastructure, including charging for electric buses.

“We applaud all of these decisions to electrify our bus fleets, helping cities address public health and climate concerns while saving money in the long-run,” said Emily Rusch, executive director of CALPIRG Education Fund.

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Environment California Research & Policy Center works to protect clean water, clean air, and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. 

CalPIRG Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest.Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.​

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