We are encouraged by the adoption of a 2035 zero-emissions school bus fleet mandate in the state budget, but are concerned that transit and paratransit vehicle fleets are not yet addressed. Transportation accounts for 28% of New York State’s greenhouse emissions, and pollution from fossil fuel combustion in this sector has grown worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of this increase is attributable to diesel-fueled trucks and buses. To meet our climate emissions goals, improve air quality in disadvantaged communities, and invest in a green jobs economy it is urgent that our state begin an immediate and rapid transition to zero-emissions vehicles and that we lead the way with public vehicle fleets.
We strongly support New York’s mandate for an all-zero-emissions school bus fleet by 2035 and the provision that all new school bus purchases be zero-emissions by 2027. Every day, almost 50,000 diesel and gasoline school buses crisscross our state, exposing school children, workers, and environmental justice communities to unhealthy air and greenhouse gas emissions. Electric school bus technology is here, is viable, and will rapidly become more affordable as fleet operators combine their purchasing power and as manufacturing and retrofitting scale up. Due to their lower maintenance costs and cost savings from using electricity as a fuel, each new electric school bus will save money for our school districts and our state.
We strongly support enabling the Office of General Services and NYSERDA to immediately begin supporting school districts in centralizing vehicle procurement, developing charging infrastructure, and providing financial and technical support – especially to districts serving disadvantaged communities struggling with multiple crises during the ongoing COVID pandemic. Any new diesel and gasoline bus purchases will make it harder for our state to meet the 2035 deadline, and our state and municipal governments must do everything possible to ensure that all new bus purchases are zero-emissions vehicles within the next few years. Moreover, the latest IPCC climate report makes clear that we need to phase out fossil fuels across the economy as fast as possible.
We are concerned that New York’s $220 billion budget does not include any guaranteed funding for electric school bus purchases. We however strongly support the designation of $500 million in the Environmental Bond Act for electric school bus procurement and supporting infrastructure.
While we support the inclusion of public transportation systems in the “zero-emission bus roadmap” mandated in the budget, we are disappointed that Governor Hochul and legislative leaders failed to take concrete action to electrify the State’s more than 15,000 transit and paratransit vehicles in this year’s budget and in the Environmental Bond Act. Experts agree that transit buses are primed for electrification today. Jumpstarting the transition to zero-emission transit would bring immediate relief to communities disproportionately burdened by toxic air pollution, would catalyze an industry that could support good jobs in New York State, and would allow millions of transit and paratransit riders the experience of clean, modern zero-emissions vehicle technology that is essential to achieving our climate and public health goals. We will continue to advocate for legislation to enact this sensible policy, which is a core component of achieving greenhouse emission reductions mandated by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
It is now critical that our legislators work together with community leaders and organizations throughout the state to secure the passage of the Environmental Bond Act in November, which will now be essential to funding zero-emissions, healthy transportation for our kids, our communities, and our workforce.
ElectrifyNY is a statewide coalition of advocates for environmental justice, public transportation, social justice, and good jobs fighting for a clean, equitable electric transportation future for New York. Our work aims to improve the environment and public health outcomes for the communities most affected by the negative impacts of the transportation sector’s dependency on fossil fuel.