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Report suggests that swift transition will curb toxic air pollution and create good manufacturing jobs for workers 

NEW YORK, March 22, 2021 — Today, Jobs to Move America (JMA) unveiled a new report about electric school bus technology and deployment, including policy recommendations for how New York can use a transition to electric school bus fleets to improve air quality for children while building a just recovery for working families. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than two million New York students relied on the state’s

46,000 school buses — the vast majority of which are major producers of toxic emissions and greenhouse gasses. The report argues that by transitioning swiftly to electric school buses, New York can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, create cleaner air for kids and communities, and support good job creation.

“From the climate crisis to the pandemic, New Yorkers need ambitious solutions that will create good, green jobs; invest in communities of color; and build a clean economy. If our city and state leaders get the policy right, New York can use the transition to electric school buses to create healthier rides for kids while supporting a just recovery for New York’s working families,” says Ian Elder, author of the report and senior national researcher at Jobs to Move America. 

The report recommends:

  • The creation of a major pilot program and the implementation of an electrification policy for New York City’s new school bus nonprofit, NYCSBUS. So far, New York City has purchased two ESBs.
  • At the city level, passing a citywide electric school bus mandate. As of January 2021, there was a proposal before the City Council to mandate a transition to electric school buses; this report suggests that an even faster transition may be possible.
  • At the state level, the report recommends that New York State follow the model of the Jobs to Move America’s U.S. Employment Plan to create a New York Jobs Plan (NYJP) policy that would improve jobs in school bus manufacturing. Such a plan should also include best-value procurement for school bus contractors. Best-value procurement for school bus services will allow fleet operators to compete on quality and community benefits, not just price, and will improve job quality and stability for school bus drivers, attendants, and technicians.
  • At the state level, creating a large and stable funding stream for electric school buses. One promising avenue is the NY Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA), under consideration in the 2021 legislative session.

“Electric school buses could really change things for the better for school bus workers, students, and the neighborhoods where our buses are parked. Right now, when we’re on the lot and dozens of buses are warming up, we’re working in a big cloud of pollution. As this report shows, we should use this transition as an opportunity to improve school bus jobs by using best value contracting, creating worker protections, and providing training for the new technology,” says Michael Cordiello President ATU Local 1181-1061, a major union that represents school bus drivers, mechanics, and attendants.

“Dirty diesel has no place near children. The science shows that childhood exposure to air pollution leads to asthma and other illnesses that can have a negative health impact throughout their lifespan. That is why it is critical to protect the health of children by replacing their toxic diesel school buses, which can give them a twice-daily dose of deadly carbon monoxide, with clean electric buses,” explains Sonal Jessel, director of policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “But we must not forget that children in low-income communities and communities of color are at the greatest risk. They are disproportionately exposed to the cumulative effects of toxic bus exhaust and other air pollution because of the environmentally racist practice of locating bus depots and other sources of harmful emissions in their neighborhoods.”

“The time is now to invest in a clean-air, green jobs future for our children. Our most vulnerable populations continue to be affected by environmental harms in their communities. Whether it is children riding on school buses, workers spending hours operating buses, or neighbors living near idling buses at schools and depots, the inhalation of diesel fumes is a detriment to long-term health and well-being. Electric school buses are a great step toward lessening air pollutants in our schools and our communities right now,” says Jenny Veloz, community organizer for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

“When parents place their children on school buses, they place trust in the safe transport of their most precious cargo. Unfortunately the pollutants emitted from school bus tailpipes places children directly into harm’s way. The problem of polluting school buses is well overdue for a solution, and the answer is clear,” says Renae Reynolds, transportation planner for New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “We must deploy electric school buses to eliminate their harmful impacts. As our city takes on the task of recovering from the coronavirus pandemic and schools begin to reopen, the electrification of school buses must take the highest priority. The technology is there and there is no excuse for doing nothing when we know what must be done.”

“This report offers a path forward for making electric school buses a reality in New York in the short term and not at some far off point in the future. A combination of funding, infrastructure and regulation can transform the state’s school bus fleet, create good jobs, and dramatically improve air quality in the next few years. We need our leaders to make the right choice,” says Anthony Buissereth, executive director of North Brooklyn Neighbors.

Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “This report shows that electrifying our school buses will improve air quality for children and drivers, as well as create green jobs while prioritizing environmental justice communities and combating climate change. That’s why we started our Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign and the NYC Clean School Bus Coalition. We urge the State and City to take advantage of the funding and procurement opportunities that can make electrification a reality. Thank you to Jobs to Move America for releasing this report and joining the call for zero-emission school buses.”

“Investing in electric school buses means taking necessary climate action to clean up transportation pollution while protecting the health of children, bus drivers, and communities across the state. Jobs to Move America’s report lays out a roadmap to get us there in an equitable way,” says Jessica Enzmann, Long Island organizing representative with the Sierra Club.

“After this year of frequent school closures and weeks with no classroom learning, we should be doing everything we can to support our kids’ learning and health, starting with protecting the air they breathe. New York City’s fleet of diesel school buses spew toxins into our neighborhoods causing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, like asthma, the leading cause of school absences, and the emissions also contribute to climate change. Investing in electric school buses is a commitment to do better for our children. It is also a commitment to equity, as most of the school bus depots are located in low income neighborhoods, exposing those communities to higher levels of air pollution and disrupting their lives and education in many ways. My children, and all New York City children deserve better,” says Lauren Kesner O’Brien, public school parent and volunteer at 350 Brooklyn Families.

“Why are today’s kids riding buses that look just as awful as the ones I took to school? Motors burning diesel noisily grinding away, exhaust fumes smelling terrible, poisonous toxins hitting the kids’ developing lungs! Since diesels create such heavy emissions, every old bus we take off the road is worth hundreds of cars. Electric school buses are just made for today’s moment,” says Joanne Boger, Brooklyn grandparent and volunteer for 350 Brooklyn.

Associated Resources

Clean Buses for New York Kids

A report with policy recommendations for how New York can harness the transition to electric school buses to create healthier communities, good jobs, and clean rides for kids.

Resource Types:
  • Reports & Policy Briefs

Alabama A&M: Are good jobs possible in the deep South?

This report, by Dr. Emily Erickson at Alabama A&M University, takes an in-depth look at the costs and benefits of the manufacturing industry’s growth by surveying workers across one city and residents living in the shadows of large manufacturing plants in Alabama.

Resource Types:
  • Reports & Policy Briefs

Analysis of USDOT Local Labor Hiring Pilot: Local hire increases opportunities for disadvantaged workers, strengthens local economies

This report from Jobs to Move America demonstrates that the lifting of a Reagan-era regulation prohibiting cities and states from using local hire policies in federally-funded construction projects would create stronger local economies, advance racial equity, and increase the ways that cities and states can create good jobs while building and repairing infrastructure.

Resource Types:
  • Reports & Policy Briefs