Zero-Emission Buses: A Unifying Solution Among 2020 Candidates

Should public transit buses purchased with federal tax dollars be required to transition to zero-emission fleets by 2029?

34 out of 36 Bay Area candidates running in 10 primary races think so.

Candidates responded to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s March 2020 Primary Candidate Questionnaire provided to candidates running for local, county, and state offices on the 2020 ballot.  Transitioning public transit buses to zero-emission fleets emerged as one unifying solution among the candidates.  Results showed that 34 out of 36 candidates are in support of requiring all new public transit buses purchased with federal dollars be zero-emission beginning in 2029.  “We have to tackle transportation emissions.  Zero-emissions buses will help meet our goal of reducing our carbon footprint in line with the Paris Accord,” wrote Councilmember Devora Davis, San José District 6 candidate.

A record high of 41 percent of California’s total Green House Gas (GHG) emissions come from transport. California will not meet its 2030 emissions reduction goal until 2061 unless emissions decline 4.5 percent annually.  Jenny Higgins Bradanini, San José District 10 candidate, wrote “We need to make bold decisions to mitigate the impacts of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. Public transit is the big solution to getting people out of their cars, but if our buses are contributing to our pollution, the gains are limited.” Pollution from diesel buses is one of the largest sources of toxic air pollution that causes respiratory diseases such as asthma. Those who use public transit most often, including children, the elderly, and those without a car, are at particular risk.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted unanimously to require that all public transit agencies buy only zero-emission buses starting in 2029.  The mandate is expected to cut GHG emissions by 19 million metric tons by 2050, the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road.  Matt Mahan, San José District 10 candidate and Leadership Group Board member, wrote that he would like to see San José hasten electrification of public transit bus fleets. “I believe that VTA and the City of San José are well-positioned for national leadership on fleet electrification.  San José International has the largest ZEV bus fleet of any airport in the country, and VTA recently purchased new ZEVs to test in its fleet,” wrote Mahan.

The Leadership Group supports H.R. 2164, The Green Bus Act (Brownley), federal legislation that helps localities transition to cleaner public transit systems by requiring all transit buses purchased with federal funds be zero-emission by 2029.  “Making future bus purchases be zero-emissions buses is a smart step to move forward on combating climate change. It’s also an effective way to bring the cost down,” wrote Sylvia Arenas, San José Councilmember and District 8 candidate.  The Green Bus Act increases funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Low and No Emission Bus Program to ensure public transit agencies have the resources to purchase and deploy zero-emission buses. Tell your member of Congress to support clean transit buses by co-sponsoring the Green Bus Act!

The Leadership Group has a legacy of supporting increased multi-year funding for zero-emission mandates, including CARB’s Innovative Clean Transit, Airport Shuttle Bus and anticipated Advanced Clean Trucks rules.  We want to see climate change and air pollution addressed effectively through innovative clean transportation solutions that are proven to work.  The Green Bus Act provides a much needed solution to ensure localities are leveraging federal dollars and are empowered to choose the cleanest bus for their health, air quality and mobility needs.  The Leadership Group respectfully urges Congress to pass the Green Bus Act and looks forward to continuing to work with community leaders to advance California’s Clean Transportation goals.

– Heidi Sickler, Director of Energy and Environment, Silicon Valley Leadership Group | February 27, 2020