November 3, 2022
By: Sarah Blas and Roxanne Mustafa | Staten Island Advance
As parents and Staten Islanders, we’re familiar with the frustrations and dangers of New York City’s dysfunctional and polluting school buses – especially for kids with individual education programs, who often spend hours on a bus each day. The buses break down, many of them have old engines, and communities living near large bus garages are harmed by air and noise pollution from an outdated and dirty diesel bus fleet. For our kids, exposure to harmful diesel fumes can cause permanent damage to developing lungs and negatively impact cognitive and academic performance. In addition the first reason for chronic absenteeism is asthma.
Fortunately, voters across New York State can take a major step toward replacing the state’s massive fleet of 45,000 diesel and gas school buses with clean, modern all-electric models. The Clean Air, Clean Water, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act will be on our ballots when early voting starts on October 29.
If approved by voters, this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Staten Islanders. Among many other investments, this act will enable New York to invest $500 million to help school districts purchase electric buses, chargers, and to ensure workers have access to training on electric fleet maintenance. Equally important, the Bond Act specifically ensures that at least 35-40% of the benefits of the new bus investments go to disadvantaged communities, which bear the brunt of environmental impacts of old, polluting bus fleets – including Staten Island neighborhoods like Port Richmond, which is home to large school bus and transit bus depots.
An upfront investment in cleaner, modern school transportation is also a win for our economy. Projections show that after just a few years of use, the cost of ownership of an electric school bus fleet will be lower than gas and diesel buses. And with electric school bus manufacturing and retrofitting already ramping up in New York, building and maintaining these fleets can be a source of well-paying, sustainable jobs across our state.