One year after New York State enacted monumental climate change legislation, a pair of state legislators are pushing their proposal to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector and promote the creation of new, good, climate-friendly jobs.
The proposal, known as “Green Transit, Green Jobs” includes two bills. One bill requires all new transit bus purchases starting in 2029 to be of zero-emission buses (ZEB) and the second would create contracting incentives for public transit agencies to procure these buses from manufacturers that utilize labor from high-need communities within New York State and create good green jobs. The plan has widespread support among environmental advocates, transit advocates, and labor unions throughout the state.
The “Green Transit” component of the proposal (A9046/S7349) would require public transit systems to purchase only zero-emission buses starting in 2029 and would task the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) with facilitating this conversion. NYSDOT would be explicitly tasked with considering ZEB purchasing in the disbursement of their five-year capital plans and would also help coordinate non-MTA transit agencies on purchasing, installation, and sharing of services. The timeline included in the bill mirrors a commitment the MTA, which is the largest public transit agency in New York, has already made to purchase only electric buses starting in 2029. Other transit agencies, including the Capital District Transportation Authority and Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, have already launched pilot initiatives, or are planning to do so shortly.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo echoed similar principles in his 2020 State of the State address, calling for five of the largest upstate and suburban transit systems to also take steps to shift to zero-emission bus fleets.
The anticipated cost of developing necessary ZEB infrastructure, including charging stations along routes and retrofitting bus depots in addition to the purchase of new buses, is expected to be large. However, there are already several funding sources that could be used by transit systems to purchase zero-emission buses, including the Volkswagen Settlement, NYSERDA’s Truck Voucher Incentive Program, and various federal initiatives from the Federal Transit Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.
The “Green Jobs” component of the proposal (A10559/S8548) would require public transit systems to include a best-value contracting framework in their evaluation of procurement contract proposals for the purchase of zero-emission buses and charging equipment. This framework would incentivize contracts to include elements such as an employment plan, consideration of the surrounding community where a facility would be built, and climate change impact mitigation. The New York State Department of Transportation would be tasked with promulgating regulations to formalize the process for meeting the proposed requirement. There is also a quarterly reporting requirement in the first year and annual reporting for all subsequent years.
Similar frameworks have been used in places like Los Angeles and Chicago, resulting in the development of new employment centers that created hundreds of high-quality, unionized jobs. Contracting commitments included elements such as hiring 40% of a factory workforce from traditionally under-represented groups in manufacturing (Los Angeles) and the development of an apprenticeship program that prioritizes low-income workers, people of color, women, returning citizens, and veterans (Chicago).