Denver’s transit agency, RTD, is one of the only large transit agencies in the country that has deployed electric buses in its fleet, reducing air pollution and saving money according to a new report on electric buses by Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center, CoPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group. RTD currently has 36 electric buses. If American transit agencies converted all of their buses to electric, the United States could save more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
“There’s no reason we should be running dirty, polluting buses in our communities when we have better, cleaner options,” said Garrett Garner-Wells, director of Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center. “Our research shows that whether commuters are on the bus or boarding the bus, they’re exposed to toxic air in high concentrations, while simultaneously, diesel contributes to global warming. We have the technology to avoid this, so why wouldn’t we?”
“RTD is proud to have one of the largest electric bus fleets in the country. The experience we gain from operating this fleet will help us make better choices as we move toward a future where electric vehicles are the norm rather than the exception,” said Michael Ford, Chief Operating Officer of RTD.
Nationally, 95 percent of school buses run on diesel and more than 60 percent of the nation’s nearly 70,000 transit buses run on diesel. Nearly 38 percent of the diesel transit buses were manufactured before 2007 when more stringent diesel air pollution requirements went into effect. However, even buses that meet those requirements or buses that operate using natural gas have dirty exhaust.
Diesel exhaust from buses poses a particular public health risk in urban areas like Denver, struggling with dirty air days, because buses primarily travel where there are lots of people, including in the more densely-crowded areas of cities, on the busiest roads, and near schools. According to the American Lung Association, the Denver metro area was the 14th most polluted city by ozone, which is fueled by vehicle emissions.
"Diesel can cause a number of health problems, including asthma and cancer, and unfortunately that's what is powering most of America's buses," said Alana Miller, policy analyst at Frontier Group and coauthor of the report. "Our report shows that all-electric buses can help cities address public health and climate concerns while saving money in the long-run."
The good news is that electric buses are available and ready to roll, and they’re cleaner, healthier and often cheaper for transit agencies to run in the long-term. And with zero tailpipe emissions, electric school buses can significantly reduce people’s exposure to toxic fumes.
“Electric buses remove dangerous air pollution from our communities and eliminate the exposure of kids on schools buses and commuters using transit to dirty exhaust,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG Foundation Director. “Electric buses are also cheaper to maintain, fuel, and operate. Every transit agency and school district should begin converting 100% of their buses to electric.”