Government Issues

California mandates fleets to operate zero-emission buses by 2040

Posted on December 17, 2018

Overall, the early response from California transit agencies was positive, especially with many including LA Metro already making the move to zero-emission buses. Photo: New Flyer
Overall, the early response from California transit agencies was positive, especially with many including LA Metro already making the move to zero-emission buses. Photo: New Flyer
The California Air Resources Board voted to mandate that all transit agencies in California operate 100% zero-emission transit buses by 2040, and to use this transition to invest in workforce development training programs in manufacturing, infrastructure installation, and maintenance.

Overall, the early response from California transit agencies was positive, especially with many including LA Metro already making the move to zero-emission buses.

“We are already ahead of the curve,” LA Metro Spokesman Rick Jager told METRO Magazine. “Earlier this year Metro’s Board of Directors committed the agency to convert its entire bus fleet from natural gas to all zero-emission buses by 2030. Metro plans to have zero-emission electric buses operating on the Metro Orange and Silver Lines in the next two years. Toward this end, Metro has already purchased nearly 100 all-electric buses.”

“Our Board of Directors recently adopted a goal to go 100% zero-emissions with our fleet by 2030,” added Jerry Estrada, GM for the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District. “While we know this will present many challenges, we plan to outpace the CARB mandate. We are extremely lucky to have operated battery-electric buses for the past 27 years, so we have seen the ups and downs of the industry, and we have lived them.”

Statement from Sacramento RT

The Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) has made tremendous strides over the last few years to move to zero emission vehicles. Over the course of the next two years we will be testing various makes and models of ZEV buses, both 40 foot buses and small shuttle buses, and anticipate having close to 50 in our fleet.

The SacRT Board has expressed the desire to be fully electric as early as 2030. We recently applied for a Caltrans Sustainable Communities Planning Grant to help formulate a ZEV Conversion plan and we anticipate going back to the SacRT Board of Directors for approval in 2019.

Electrify America will be purchasing 12 (40 foot) ZEV buses for frequent express service between UC Davis and the UC Davis Medical Center and three smaller ZEV shuttle buses for our SmaRT Ride microtransit service. We have worked with our partners at the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality District to update the SECAT guidelines that will allow us purchase over 20 additional ZEVs for our SmaRT Ride service.

SacRT currently operates a fleet of 97 light rail vehicles that are 100% electric. We received an $85 million grant to begin the modernization of our light rail system, which we are in the process of now.

We recognize that the conversion to a 100% ZEV fleet is not without challenges and will require improvements in range and a sufficient supply of electricity to support the simultaneous charging of an electric fleet.

Likewise, response from bus suppliers was also positive.

“We stand ready to deliver and make the transition to zero emission buses a reality,” said BYD President Stella Li in a statement. “Our Lancaster facility has the capacity to produce 1500 buses and we have partnered with Generate Capital to make a leasing program available to accelerate this transition. We also provide solar and storage products that can help customers charge their new buses. We are excited to work with leaders across the state to transition their fleets.”

According to the LA Times, transit agencies are worried about cost and reliability of the technology because it is in its early stages of commercial use. There are about 130 zero-emission buses in operation in the state, officials say, and 650 more are planned to hit the road in near future, the LA Times reported.

To that end, transit agencies are hopeful that the evolution will be smooth.

“We are hopeful that as time goes by and CARB tracks the progress of ZEB manufacturers, utility support, and industry readiness, California transit operators will successfully start to transition to a reliable suite of fleet options,” Estrada said.

If all of the buses purchased under this mandate were built in the U.S., this mandate could support up to 41,380 U.S. jobs.

The rule, which includes language calling for good jobs and resolving to develop further workforce policies, was passed after years of advocacy from a broad coalition of labor, environmental, and economic justice organizations, including the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Union of Concerned Scientists, American Lung Association, BlueGreen Alliance, Coalition for Clean Air, Jobs to Move America, CWA District 9, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 11, IBEW Local 569, and IBEW LMCC.

“The passing of this rule is a huge win for many in our communities who, despite working hard for years, have been unable to benefit from the Silicon Valley tech boom and infrastructure investment,” said Jobs to Move America Senior Policy Coordinator Abhilasha Bhola. “Not only will this rule reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, it has, the potential to create and support tens of thousands of jobs in our state.”

According to research from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, if all of the buses purchased under this mandate were built in the U.S., this mandate could support up to 41,380 U.S. jobs. With policies such as the U.S. Employment Plan, California transit agencies will be able to incentivize bus companies to hire local workers as they transition to zero-emission fleets. Such policies can also ensure historically excluded populations, including women and communities of color, have access to these jobs.

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