NYC May Soon Require a Transition to Electric School Buses

School buses in New York City may be going electric. 

Over 2 million children ride diesel school buses in New York State. Pollution from these 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 80,000 children in New York City are affected by asthma and it is a leading cause of school absenteeism

Unfortunately, our most vulnerable populations are hit hardest by diesel pollution.  According to research by the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a large portion of school bus depots are 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. In some environmental justice neighborhoods, 1 in 4 children has asthma, compared to 6% citywide

Diesel pollution is also harmful to our environment. The exhaust contains greenhouse gasses, such as nitrogen oxides, that pollute our air. According to a research paper that we released last year, school buses nationwide emit up to 8.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, making up a quarter of transportation greenhouse gas emissions. 

The New York City Council is attempting to tackle this issue legislatively. Council Member Daniel Dromm proposed Intro. 455, a bill that requires a transition to clean, zero-emission school buses. It has 42 co-sponsors. We are working with our partners to advocate for the bill and make sure it passes with the strongest feasible clean school bus requirements.

You can show your support for Intro. 455 by clicking here to send a message to your elected officials. 

Transitioning to zero-emission buses, such as electric school buses, would improve air quality, protect children’s health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. If New York City’s diesel school buses were replaced with electric models, the reduction of greenhouse gases over 16 years – the average lifetime of a school bus – would be equivalent to removing 620,985 cars from the road. In our report on school buses, we estimated that there would be a reduction of 18 million pounds of nitrogen oxides and 74,000 pounds of particulate matter in that time frame. 

This transition is necessary for the fight against climate change.

New York State recently passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, requiring a reduction in emissions from every sector of the economy. Zero-emission buses would help New York address its leading contributor to climate change, the transportation sector. OneNYC, Mayor de Blasio’s plan to combat climate change, includes goals of promoting sustainable transportation, supporting healthy lives, and decreasing greenhouse gas emission levels. Reducing diesel pollution by transitioning to zero-emission school buses could help all three of these objectives.

Clean school buses have been successful in other places. The California Energy Commission recently approved funding to replace over 200 diesel school buses with electric buses. This will eliminate 57,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. By following this lead and transitioning to zero-emission buses, New York could also benefit from significant emission reductions.

NYLCV will continue to advocate for sustainable transportation options and clean school buses.