Boston Begins Replacing Dirty Diesel School Buses With Clean Electric Ones

Boston will begin a pilot program to replace more than 700 of its school buses with electric-powered models, with the first 20 going into service later this year.

The announcement was made by Mayor Michelle Wu at the Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, where she also said that electric vehicle maintenance would be taught in the school’s automotive technology program.

The first 20 electric buses cost $7 million and were purchased with federal coronavirus stimulus funds in addition to the operating budget of the school department. Boston’s current fleet of 739 school buses is diesel and propane powered, and Mayor Wu plans to replace all of them with emissions-free electric models by 2030.

Staci Rubin, vice president of environmental justice at Conservation Law Foundation, urged for the first emissions-free buses to run on routes that serve students of color and low-income residents, as they are the most susceptible to health issues stemming from poor air quality. “Electric school buses dramatically improve air quality and our children deserve to be in a tailpipe emissions-free vehicle,” Rubin said.

The electric buses will not only remove tailpipe emissions around schools but will also reduce noise and provide a healthier environment for both drivers and monitors. Children and the elderly are more likely to develop health problems from exposure to diesel exhaust fumes, such as asthma, heart disease, lung disease, and other respiratory illnesses.

“Climate justice is racial and economic justice. And this moment requires an urgent, all hands on deck approach from every level of government to reduce emissions and boost the health, safety, and opportunity of our communities,” said Mayor Wu.

According to officials, school buses make up 11 percent of municipal emissions. The buses are the latest step for Mayor Wu’s Green New Deal, which will see the city’s fleet of some-1,200 vehicles converted to electric. The 700 electric buses will be in addition to the city’s proposed electric fleet.

“This opportunity to electrify our fleet is critical to achieving an equitable local Green New Deal,” said Delavern Stanislaus, director of transportation for Boston Public Schools. “Not only are we working to electrify our school buses and municipal fleet for cleaner air throughout our neighborhoods, but these workforce development pipelines connected to electric vehicles will help support career pathways into the green economy,” Wu added.

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