Newark – If New Jersey Transit transitioned its entire fleet of transit buses to all-electric vehicles, it could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions each year and reduce toxic air pollution that creates a public health hazard. A new report from Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, “Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air,” shows that a transition to electric buses for NJ Transit could avoid climate-altering and localized air pollution each day without losing reliability.
“There’s no reason we should be running dirty, polluting buses in our communities when we have better, cleaner options,” said Doug O’Malley, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center Director. “Our research shows that whether commuters are riding or boarding the bus, they’re exposed to toxic air in high concentrations, while simultaneously, diesel contributes to global warming. We have the technology to avoid this – it’s time for NJ Transit to get with numerous other transit agencies and start joining the electrification revolution for riders.”
More than 60 percent of the nation’s nearly 70,000 transit buses run on diesel, while just 0.2 percent of buses are all-electric. Numerous studies have shown that inhaling diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. Diesel exhaust from buses poses a particular public health risk; buses primarily travel where there are lots of people, including in the more densely-crowded areas of our cities, on the busiest roads, and near schools.
“While other states and municipalities are taking action and making plans to electrify public buses, New Jersey is being left behind. NJ Transit needs to put it in high gear and develop a plan to transition to electric buses. This is about more than climate change, this is about reducing air pollution and improving air quality and public health today in our inner cities,” stated Debra Coyle McFadden, acting executive director, NJ Work Environment Council.
The good news is that all-electric buses are available and ready to roll, and they’re cleaner, healthier and often cheaper for transit agencies to run in the long-term. And with zero tailpipe emissions, electric school buses can significantly reduce people’s exposure to toxic fumes.
“There are communities in New Jersey that are choking to death on exhausts from trucks and buses. One of the best ways New Jersey can take on this problem is by electrifying their bus fleet. Exhausts from buses are one of the biggest problems of air pollution that cause serious health impacts, especially to children. NJ Transit is in the middle of buying fossil fuel buses, they must cancel those contracts and replace them with electric ones. The technology is there, and prices are coming down. They should target acquisition first in urban areas that have receive a disproportionate share of pollution, especially minority and low-income communities,” said Jeff Tittel, director, NJ Sierra Club. “NJ Transit has missed the bus so far, they need to move forward to catch up when it comes to electrifying their fleet. They must start now so that they can transition to 100% electric buses by 2025.”
The report identifies several ways New Jersey can pay for the transition to electric buses, including using Volkswagen settlement funds, state and federal grants, and utility investments. New Jersey is receiving more than $72 million as part of the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” settlement. A portion of that money could be used to purchase all-electric buses and charging infrastructure. The NJDEP recently announced the criteria that will be used for awards and kicked off a public hearing process.
“Environmental justice communities like Newark need relief from dirty diesel whether it’s from transit buses or the 14,000 trucks coming in and out of the port every day. Drivers, bus riders and walkers all experience the effects of diesel,” said Amy Goldsmith, New Jersey State Director for Clean Water Action. “Converting diesel powered fleets to electric will not only significantly reduce our carbon footprint and "heat island effect" (city temperatures hotter than suburbs), but also the number of children gasping for air while experiencing an asthma attack, emergency visits and, more often than you think, premature death for those most vulnerable to pollution and its harms.”
“Clean air for our cities is a life-saver, as is reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change. Clean-powered public transit is vital to accomplishing this. People of faith urge NJ Transit to do the right thing, and to make a commitment to electrify its entire bus fleet by 2035," said Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith.
"New Jersey Transit must invest in electric buses to improve our communities’ health and ensure not just a clean energy future, but any future at all," said Norah Langweiler, campaign organizer for Jersey Renews.
“Diesel can cause a number of health problems, including asthma and cancer, and unfortunately that's what is powering most of America's buses,” said Alana Miller, policy analyst at Frontier Group and coauthor of the report. “Our report shows that all-electric buses can help cities address public health and climate concerns while saving money in the long-run.”
“Major cities across the world have committed to protecting public health and the climate by transitioning to 100 percent all-electric buses,” said O’Malley. “NJ Transit should make the same commitment.”
Public Fleet Electrification – New Jersey Should Be Next
City of Portland is using a federal grant and support from Portland General Electric to purchase five electric buses. This test will help the city assess the performance and maintenance of electric buses on the way to transitioning their public transportation fleet to all-electric, which TriMet announced in late Sept.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation will receive a shipment of 25 electric buses in 2019 en route to an all-electric bus fleet 2030 – a good start for their 359 buses. Other transportation agencies in the area are transitioning their fleets as well, including the Los Angeles Country Metro Transportation Authority’s 2,200 bus fleet (the largest in the state) and nearby Foothill Transit will upgrade their 361 buses.
California Air Resources Board develops rules and regulations to improve air quality in the state. With direction and authority from the California legislature, the process ensures that all stakeholders and community voices are included and all viable options are considered. An independent review is undertaken to ensure all regulations meet the expectations of the legislature prior to the adoption of any measure.
The MTA in NYC is the nation’s largest municipal bus network and is aiming to transition it’s 5,700 buses to electric by 2040. The MTA is testing 10 buses and has plans to purchased 60 more by 2019. The MTA is also working on a system-wide redesign to increase ridership.
Metro Transit will create an electrification plan before making final decision on buying more buses for its fleet.
Minneapolis-St. Paul’s metro area public transit system withdrew a proposal this week to purchase 131 diesel and hybrid buses following public feedback pressuring it to put a greater focus on electrifying its fleet.
The Metropolitan Council, which oversees Metro Transit, made the decision based on public comments on its 2040 Transportation Policy Plan, spokeswoman Kate Brickman said.
By canceling the procurement the Met Council will have additional time and flexibility to determine a strategy for electrification, Brickman said. The Council will create an electrification plan that will be released as part of the broader transportation document before the end of the year, she said.
Capital Metro announces vision for an electrified high-capacity transit network to move more people in Central Texas
Capital Metro announced its vision for Project Connect–the regional transit plan that has been in the works since 2013–will include autonomous vehicles, more connected bus routes and a fully electric fleet.
San Francisco Muni Gets $3.6M Federal Grant For Bus, Facility Upgrades
Thanks to a $3.6-million federal grant, San Francisco Municipal Railway buses and facilities will be getting a much-needed facelift, plus a leg up on future electrification of all buses in the system, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced this September.
A new Order of Electric Buses for Montreal (A nod to our neighbors from the north).
Nova Bus is proud to announce it has been awarded a new contract by Montreal transit authority STM (Société de transport de Montréal). The contract calls for 4 fully electric 40-foot LFSe buses, scheduled to be delivered at the end of 2019.
This new order comes on the heels of the first service anniversary of the three quick-charge electric buses provided by Nova Bus as part of the Montreal City Mobility project, a landmark initiative by STM and the Quebec government. These four new vehicles are intended to replace the diesel-powered buses that currently run the same route, from Square Victoria to the Angrignon terminal.
Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center is a 501 C(3) organization. We are dedicated to protecting our air, water 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. For more information, visit www.environmentnewjerseycenter.org.