Dump the Diesel Buses For Climate's Sake, Transit Experts Tell MTA

2019-05-15 | The New York Daily News

May 15-- May 15--People living in the city's low-income neighborhoods are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change including extreme heat and rising sea levels because of aging infrastructure, and that includes diesel buses, the Regional Plan Association said in a report released on Wednesday.

The report, dubbed "Equitable Adaptation," was produced in conjunction with nonprofit immigration group Make the Road New York and lays out 13 ways local officials could quickly shore up infrastructure. Critical among them is banning diesel buses in the city.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates 5,700 buses, and all but 10 are powered by diesel or hybrid-diesel. The agency plans to purchase 1,700 new buses over the next five years, and early proposals show some 1,300 will run on diesel fuel.

"We want to see the MTA take all the steps necessary to take a clean and healthy fleet," said the RPA's Rob Freudenberg. "At some level we're going to have to pick up the pace and make the fleet healthier."

Motor gasoline and diesel fuel emit carbon dioxide, one of the gases scientists say contributes to the "greenhouse effect" and warming of the planet.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that in 2017, gasoline and diesel fuel use in U.S. transportation resulted in the emission of about 1,098 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 451 million metric tons of CO2, respectively, for a total of 1,549 million metric tons of CO2. This total was equal to 81% of total U.S. transportation sector CO2 emissions and equal to 30% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2017.

The MTA has vowed to make its bus fleet entirely electric by 2040. MTA buses provide some 2.2 million rides a day, so making them electric would substantially reduce carbon emissions within the city. The MTA has already retired its oldest diesel buses.

"The idea is that climate change is affecting these communities in ways that are kind of unique. It makes conditions worse," Freudenberg said.

This year, the MTA brought in new buses and redistributed its existing fleet, resulting in a more equitable distribution of its oldest vehicles. Still, the majority of the agency's depots, which have the heaviest concentration of bus traffic, are in low-income areas.

"They still have a large fleet of clean diesel buses, which are yes cleaner but not healthy for these communities," said Freudenberg, who added that diesel exhaust from buses poses a major public health risk.

The MTA plans to have roughly 60 fully electric buses in its fleet by the end of the year, and is working out how many it will bring in over its next five-year capital plan, spanning 2020 to 2024.

"There is a very cyclical upgrade as it relates to buses," MTA head of buses Darryl Irick said last week. "There's a number of factors, and one of them is to make sure that in our communities buses are deployed in a fair and equitable manner."

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