On Earth Day, City Councilor At-Large and Candidate for Mayor Michelle Wu joined advocates, including David Meshoulam, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Speak for the Trees, at the South End’s Melnea Cass bus yard to call for the City of Boston to electrify its school bus fleet by 2030.
The BPS transportation fleet consumes nearly 60 percent of all the diesel fuel consumed by the City government. The move is part of Wu’s Green New Deal for Boston Public Schools, which is part of her larger education vision to upgrade facilities and ensure every school is a modern, healthy and inspiring place to learn.
Roughly 24,000 Boston students are transported to and from school on 3,100 bus trips every day, and about half of these buses still run on diesel fuel. Pollution on diesel buses has been measured at five to 10 times higher than in other nearby areas, causing outsize impacts on childrens’ learning, development and health. Not only do pollutants from diesel fuel cause asthma and other respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer but there is also evidence to suggest the diesel directly impacts childrens’ English and math scores. Boston’s Black, Latinx and AAPI residents are disproportionately exposed to particulate matter pollution from cars, trucks, and buses.
“We need to immediately move away from dirty diesel fuels that pollute our neighborhoods and move toward clean air for our children, our communities and our bus drivers,” Wu said at a press conference at the Melnea Cass Bus Yard in the South End on April 22. “Boston needs to commit to a full electrification of our school bus fleet by 2030 as part of a comprehensive plan to ensure our kids come to school happy, healthy and ready to learn, and as part of the fight for environmental justice. As Mayor, I will take every possible step to protect the health of our residents and seize on opportunities in the green economy. That starts with our children, from clean, sustainable school transportation to rebuilding Boston Public Schools facilities into healthy, energy-efficient, inspiring places to learn for our students and educators.”
In Massachusetts, the Town of Beverly has already begun the process of transitioning to an electric fleet. Wu added that the Biden infrastructure plan includes incentives and grants for municipalities like Boston to electrify school buses and build a network of EV chargers with strong labor and installation standards.
Wu said making the change was something the City government could do – getting federal help – and be the leader of change for other transportation networks, including the MBTA – which transports all school children in Boston in 6th grade and above.
“We have the power and ability to make these changes,” she said.
Meshoulam said it is especially important for the environment and for the trees around bus depots all over the City because many times diesel buses at such yard idle extensive, which is illegal. At the Melnea Cass Yard, he said, Conservation Law Foundation not long ago reached a settlement with the bus company for excessive idling. With an electrified fleet, he said, that will not be an issue. “People around the City understand the important role trees play in the environment, the economy and social habitats,” he said.