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A Recovery for All of Us: Mayor de Blasio Commits to 100% Electric School Bus Fleet By 2035

April 22, 2021

City will phase in 75 electric school buses over the next two years; To support citywide electric vehicle adoption, the administration will expand legislation that requires all new parking lots include EV charging infrastructure   

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio doubled down on his commitment to reduce carbon and air pollution from vehicles by announcing that school buses in New York City will be electric by 2035. In partnership with the City, the NYC School Bus Umbrella Corporation (NYCSBUS), an independent non-profit that will manage school bus operations, is pursuing aggressive goal of having an all-electric school bus fleet by 2030 and becoming a model for electrified urban pupil transportation. Through a partnership with NYCSBUS, the City will purchase 75 accessible electric school buses in the next two years to advance this goal, and as part of the 960 buses they will manage.

The transition from a diesel school bus fleet to an all-electric fleet will have significant climate, health and cost-saving impacts: The new fleet will reduce 30% of carbon emissions from school buses, remove enough air pollution citywide to avoid two premature deaths each year, reduce asthma emergency department visits and respiratory and cardiac hospitalizations, and save about $18 million in health care costs.

“Today we are doubling down on reducing air pollution and carbon emissions from our vehicles,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The clean transportation future we need is being built right here, right now.”

“For our kids’ sake, it’s time to leave the internal combustion engine behind,” said Ben Furnas, Director, Office of Climate & Sustainability. “Electrifying our school buses will give our schoolchildren cleaner air to breathe while confronting the climate crisis and accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels. Thank you to the Department of Education for your commitment to an all-electric school bus fleet and thank you to NYCBUS for leading the way!”

This commitment builds on Executive Order 53 which mandates all 30,000 of the City’s non-emergency fleet vehicles will be electric vehicles by 2040.  When the NYC Clean Fleet commitment was made in February 2020, the school bus fleet servicing New York City public students was owned by private companies. Starting this year, the non-profit NYCSBUS will operate 960 school buses and work in partnership with the City to manage their school bus operations, targeting routes in environmental justice neighborhoods. Electric school buses are a burgeoning new technology, representing less than 1% of school bus production in 2019 nationally.  Long-term ownership costs are expected to be lower than their diesel counterparts. The new electric school buses will cost $30 million over the next two years, which includes purchasing the buses, as well as related infrastructure and staffing needs.

Emissions from all cars, buses, and trucks make up about 30% of the city’s carbon footprint. The air pollution from that traffic contributes to 320 premature deaths and 870 emergency department visits annually, with the highest concentration of pollution occurring in low income neighborhoods.  Reducing dependence on cars by utilizing alternative modes of transportation coupled with wide scale adoption of electric vehicles where cars are needed is a critical component of the City’s plan to reach carbon-neutrality by 2050 and deliver a just transition to a green economy.

To support adoption of electric vehicles citywide and advance the City’s goal of ensuring EVs comprise 20 percent of new vehicle registrations by 2025, the City also announced plans to update to Local Law 130. The expansion will require all parking facilities to include electric vehicle chargers for at least 20 percent of parking spaces. Additionally, new parking lots will have electric service capacity at all parking spaces to add chargers without needing new conduit or to resurface the facility. We are also working towards having electric service capacity for at least 40 percent of parking spaces at existing parking facilities.

Parking assets lasts decades, and equipping these facilities with the infrastructure to support electric vehicles now is crucial to accelerate electric vehicle adoption. Access to electric vehicle charging is limited for the vast majority of New Yorkers who do not have access to a private garage or driveway where they can readily install their own charger. This barrier makes the need to create a robust charging network citywide to support electric vehicle adoption foundational to the City’s climate goals.

“Our children deserve an environment that is cleaner, greener and brighter than how we left it, and this announcement brings us one step closer to that reality,” said School’s Chancellor Meisha Porter. “New York City is pioneering this important work to combat climate change and reaffirming our commitment to healthier school communities across the five boroughs.”

“Thanks to Mayor de Blasio, the City of New York’s fleet is on the way to going all-electric by 2040,” said Keith Kerman, DCAS Deputy Commissioner and NYC Chief Fleet Officer. “The City operates over 2,800 plug-in electric vehicles and 1,040 charging stations today – both the largest programs in the state. We are excited that the City’s school buses will also go electric by 2040 and DCAS will continue to work closely with the Department of Education to get this done.”

“Everyone can get on board for cleaner air,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “An all-electric school bus fleet will help protect our youngest New Yorkers from developing serious health problems, because we know air pollution can exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. As the City’s doctor, a parent, and the husband of an educator, I thank the Department of Education for this important step to keeping our city healthy.”

“Accessibility is sustainability and they go hand in hand,” said Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) Commissioner Victor Calise. “All of the 75 electric school buses that will be part of the initial purchase are wheelchair accessible, thereby ensuring that they serve all students including individuals with disabilities.”

“As city agencies pursue ways to make our work cleaner and greener, mandating that the school buses that carry our kids be entirely electric will set a great national example,” said New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman. “Here at DOT, we continue to pursue the Mayor’s environmentally-minded goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions each day—including by building out electric-charging stations, adding electric vehicles to our fleet as well as overseeing an expanded on-street carshare system.”

Matt Berlin, CEO, NYCSBUS said, “I thank Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Porter, and Director Furnas for making this commitment that will have a lasting positive influence on the children and families we serve, and our environment. NYCSBUS is proud to be on the leading edge of this initiative and we look forward to working with our partners in the Administration, the City Council, and advocacy community to implement the Mayor’s ambitious vision.”

“While we can’t control all of the vehicles coming in and out of our city, we can cut carbon emissions by insisting that those we can control switch to electric,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “This change in our school bus fleet will have a dramatic impact on our environment.  It is the right thing to do.”

“This common-sense investment to reduce our carbon footprint and dramatically cut emissions that pollute our air will make an indescribable impact in the long-term health of our families and our city as a whole,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “I look forward to the day when every vehicle in this city runs on electric power, while the days of fossil fuel consumption becoming nothing but a distant memory.”

“Encouraging electric vehicle use to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change is great but without more places to charge up, it won’t work. I welcome the Mayor’s announcement that we’re going to significantly and dramatically increase charging equipment in garages, lots, and large buildings. Electric vehicles are one important way that we can adapt to climate change and build a more resilient city,” said Council Member Justin Brannan.

“New York City has been trying its best to clean the school bus fleet for more than a generation, but it is this Mayor and his great environmental team that has today put the City on the path that will, for sure, get this done. This is an amazingly bold commitment, but the Administration has the vision and the will to finally get this done once and for all. Congratulations and thank you, Mr. Mayor,” said Council Member James Gennaro.

Council Member Peter Koo said, “By committing to a 100% electric school bus fleet, our city is taking an ambitious step toward a more sustainable future. Reducing our carbon footprint is an essential solution for big cities where exhaust, smog and pollution contribute to record health disparities and high asthma rates. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio for committing to addressing this problem now and in the future.”

“Moving the City’s school bus fleet to 100% electric by 2035 is a step in the right direction and will have an immediate positive impact on the environment. It’s so important that we protect the environment and set an example to our youth of how we care for the world around us,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. 

“The communities most vulnerable to COVID-19 are the same that are most affected by air pollution––Black, Latino and immigrant communities, and older adults. How we address the climate crisis is how we advance racial justice. And while there’s much work to be done, transitioning to an all-electric fleet is an important step that will have a positive impact on our health, on the climate, and the economy,” said Council Member Francisco Moya.

“New York City has made bold strides in recent years with legislation to advance our climate goals and our leadership on resiliency among municipalities in the U.S. and abroad. With one of the largest vehicle fleets under its purview, the City rightfully must make these investments to reduce emissions as quickly as possible. I applaud the Mayor on taking this initial step and look forward to taking advantage of technological advancements over the next several years that can help us beat the environmental milestones we are setting along the way,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.

“The Mayor’s commitment to fully electrify the City’s new municipal school bus provider (NYCSBUS) by 2030 is a great step toward ensuring that New York City students, drivers, and attendants have a cleaner, healthier ride. The benefits also extend to environmental justice communities where most school bus depots are housed in close proximity to homes and schools.  For too long, our most vulnerable populations endured the most harm from old, dirty gas and diesel school buses—students with disabilities sitting on school buses for hours a day inhaling fumes; seniors and individuals with chronic respiratory illness (like asthma) inhaling fumes from school buses idling on the streets. We appreciate the City’s commitment to electrifying vehicles and hope that this effort continues toward a cleaner, greener New York,” said Jenny Veloz, Community Organizer, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest said.

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “Children deserve to travel free of environmental toxins like diesel fumes. Just as Washington is prioritizing clean transportation, including electric school buses, as part of the American Jobs Plan, New York City is committing to clean up its school buses. This commitment will help reduce pollution and improve air quality, especially in environmental justice neighborhoods that are overburdened by dirty school bus depots and other climate impacts. Along with the rest of the NYC Clean School Bus Coalition, we applaud Mayor de Blasio for this commitment to clean school buses and look forward to making this long-time priority a reality.”

“We are proud that our years of advocacy for the electrification of school buses have been heard. Electric school buses are a key piece of reducing emissions in New York City and creating healthier communities for students across our city. The fact is that children who ride diesel school buses remain one of the most vulnerable populations and stand to gain the greatest benefits as we eliminate these sources of pollution. We commend Mayor de Blasio for taking this leap forward that will ensure a transition to a full electric school bus fleet. We look forward to working with the administration and ensuring that there is dedicated funding to expand the electric school bus pilot program in this year’s budget. We must move us as aggressively as possible towards this goal,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN.

“ElectrifyNY applauds New York City on its commitment to electrify city-owned vehicles and its success untangling school bus policy to make electrification part of our city’s clean transportation future. This, compiled with the changes to local laws requiring electric service capacity for charging stations in parking lots, shows the improvement that city policies will have on the air our neighbors breathe every day. We look forward to this momentum building to create an electric vehicle model that cities across the state and country can adopt for equitable urban electrification,” said Renae Reynolds, Transportation Planner at NYC-EJA and ElectrifyNY Coalition Coordinator.

Miranda Nelson, New York Director at Jobs to Move America said, “We applaud the Mayor for committing to electrify our city’s school buses—starting with the city’s new, non-profit school bus fleet. This will mean healthier air for kids, school bus workers, and our communities. If we get this policy right, we can encourage the creation of good, inclusive jobs in school bus manufacturing and operations.”

“350Brooklyn appreciates the mayor’s commitment to electrifying school buses and we urge NYCSBUS to advance the cause of environmental justice in our city by prioritizing the rollout of these vehicles in low-income and marginalized communities. Mayoral support paves the way for passage of Intro 455, the E-school Bus Bill, which has overwhelming support in the city council and must be enacted swiftly. The bill sets a schedule for phasing-out diesel buses and guarantees electric school bus implementation city-wide,” said Joanne Boger, 350Brooklyn.

“We are thrilled that Mayor Bill de Blasio and the independent NYC School Bus Umbrella Corporation have made this bold commitment to investing in electric school buses to protect the health of our children and communities,” said Sonal Jessel, M.P.H., Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and member of the New York City Clean School Bus Coalition. “And the Clean School Bus Coalition looks forward to working with the City to pass legislation that will phase out diesel school buses, which choke our children with their carcinogenic exhaust, so that every child can ride in a clean, healthy electric school bus. This is particularly important in the city’s low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, which bear a disproportionate burden of pollution from multiple sources, creating cumulative impacts that have resulted in some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the nation.”

Leslie Stevens, 350NYC and member of the New York City Clean School Bus Coalition said “We must prioritize legislation and actions that would mandate the quick retirement of dirty diesel school buses to reduce carbon emissions and pollution. We love our children and want them to be healthy and safe. We must give up these fossil fuel technologies that have viable alternatives.”