If Oregon transitioned its entire fleet of diesel 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 Oregon Research & Policy Center, OSPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group, “Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air,” shows that a full transition to electric buses from TriMet alone could avoid an average of 39,990 tons of climate-altering pollution each year -- the equivalent of taking 7,720 cars off the road.
“There’s no reason we should be running dirty, polluting buses in our communities when we have better, cleaner options,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, State Director with Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center. “Our research shows that whether commuters are on the bus 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, so why wouldn’t we?”
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 cities, on the busiest roads, and near schools.
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.
"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."
The report identifies several ways Oregon can pay for the transition to electric buses, including using Volkswagen settlement funds, state and federal grants, and utility investments. Oregon is receiving $72.9 million as part of the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” settlement. A portion of that money could be used to purchase all-electric buses and charging infrastructure.
“Major cities across the world have committed to protecting public health and the climate by transitioning to 100 percent all-electric buses,” added Meiffren-Swango. “TriMet and transit agencies across Oregon should make the same commitment.”
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