Advocates Call for Clean School Buses

Last year, New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal spearheaded a pilot program to bring electric school buses to New York City by the start of this school year. However, the buses are still not on the road.

We are disappointed that the pilot’s rollout is delayed so we organized a press conference with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) and Council Member Rafael Espinal to urge the NYC Department of Education (DOE) to clean its school bus fleet. We were joined by WE ACT, Transportation Alternatives, EarthJustice, and Citywide Council for District 75.

We emphasized that It’s the first day of school, and DOE is already late to class by missing a promised deadline for innovating the way it transports students to and from schools. 

NYLCV has been fighting for a transition away from diesel school buses over the last two years as part of our Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign. 

In our 2018 report, we explained that pollution from diesel buses poses a threat to children’s health. Due to their developing lungs, children are especially sensitive to the harmful particulate matter contained in diesel emissions. The exhaust and its byproducts have been linked to respiratory diseases like asthma, cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, and higher mortality rates. Over 53,000 students in New York City suffer from asthma and it is a leading cause of school absenteeism

Diesel pollution is also harmful to the environment. It contains chemicals, such as nitrogen oxides, that pollute our air. At the national level, school bus fleets can emit 8.4 million metric tons of carbon pollution every year, despite only operating for part of the year, a few hours a day.

These impacts disproportionately affect vulnerable communities. According to research by NYLPI, a large share of school bus depots are housed in environmental justice communities, where residents suffer higher rates of air pollution, are hospitalized more often for respiratory illnesses, and are disproportionately impacted by climate change

Transitioning to electric school buses, would improve air quality, protect children’s health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

The electric school bus pilot is an opportunity for DOE to be innovative in cleaning up student transport and reduce pollution that put kids’ health at risk.  

This delay underscores the need for legislative action on this issue. Last year Council Member Dromm introduced Intro. 455, which would require all school buses to be zero-emission by 2040. Since the pilot program is delayed, passing Intro 455 can spark this transition.

NYLCV and our partners will continue to urge DOE to begin this pilot and clean our school buses as soon as possible.