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Metro Magazine: Sixteen California mayors say their city buses should be zero-emission

More than a dozen mayors from across California sent a letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) expressing their support for zero-emission transit buses and strong state action to accelerate deployment in their communities.

Representatives from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Advanced Clean Transit Coalition — a coalition of environmental, public health, science, labor and vehicle technology groups — presented the letter to CARB officials on Jan. 30, 2017. CARB is considering a new state regulation called the Innovative Clean Transit rule that would require zero-emission vehicles to make up at least 25% of transit agency bus purchases by 2020, and 100% of all new purchases by 2029.

“Not only can electric buses help California rise to meet our state’s public health challenges, but a swift transition to zero-emission buses will also help meet California’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,” the mayors wrote. “A strong regulatory signal from CARB would spur increased production and competition, and continue to lower the purchase price of zero-emission buses.”

The heavy-duty transportation sector, which includes transit buses, freight trucks and delivery trucks, contributes a third of California’s smog-forming nitrogen oxides, the largest single source of this type of air pollution, and represents seven percent of California’s global warming emissions.

Compared to diesel and natural gas buses, battery powered electric buses on today’s grid in California emit 70% less global warming emissions, and hydrogen fuel cell electric buses emit 50% less emissions, according to UCS. Both battery powered electric and hydrogen fuel cell buses have no tailpipe pollution.

“Transportation electrification is among the best tools we have to fight climate change, and converting buses is the tip of the spear,” said Jimmy O’Dea, senior vehicles analyst at UCS. “Because they have similar components, if buses can electrify so can heavy-duty trucks.”

In the last two years, seven California transit agencies have committed to 100% zero-emission bus fleets. These transit agencies, including Foothill Transit, Antelope Valley Transit Authority, San Joaquin Regional Transit District, and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), have committed about 3,500 buses — one-third of all transit buses in California — to be electrified by 2040 or earlier. These seven agencies bring the total number of California agencies already operating or that have zero-emission buses on order to 21.

“The technology exists today to convert our bus fleets from fossil fuels to zero-emission technologies,” said O’Dea. “Last year’s decision by LA Metro, the second-largest bus fleet in the country, to electrify by 2030 added momentum to this statewide effort to reduce air pollution and defend against the worst impacts from climate change.”

The following California mayors, representing nearly eight million people, have signed the letter:

Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Berkeley
Mayor Michael Brownrigg, Burlingame
Mayor Mary Salas, Chula Vista
Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Encinitas
Mayor Rey León, Huron
Mayor Serge Dedina, Imperial Beach
Mayor R. Rex Parris, Lancaster
Mayor Racquel Vasquez, Lemon Grove
Mayor Robert García, Long Beach
Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles
Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland
Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento
Mayor Sam Liccardo, San José
Mayor Helene Schneider, Santa Barbara
Mayor Michael Tubbs, Stockton
Mayor Erik Nasarenko, Ventura

Both Oakland Mayor Schaaf of Oakland and Imperial Beach Mayor Dedina represent cities that also filed lawsuits in state court last year against petroleum companies for climate change damages.

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