The City of New York (NYC) spends over $1 BILLION of our tax dollars a year hiring over 10,000 privately owned school buses to transport our children to and from school. The vast majority of these school buses are older diesel-powered buses with high levels of dangerous emissions. Under current NYC laws, a school bus can be operated for up to 16 years, meaning a child could ride the same school bus from pre-school until they graduate high school.

    Diesel emissions such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, and fine particulate matter have damaging effects on the developing hearts and lungs of children causing an increased risk of heart disease and asthma. The New York State (NYS) Department of Health’s 2009 Asthma Surveillance Summary Report concluded that 10% of children in NYC are diagnosed with asthma. NYC Dept. of Health and Hygiene says that asthma is the leading cause of pediatric hospitalization in NYC and is twice the US average and 3.4 times the rate in the rest of NYS. In 2003, treating asthma symptoms cost NYS’s healthcare system $1.8 billion dollars according to US Dept. of Health and Human Services.

    Children riding on school buses have higher exposure levels and are more susceptible to the harmful effects of diesel emissions. University of California and Yale have both done studies showing that the levels of diesel pollution on the bus can be 4 to 10 times higher than the surrounding environment. A University of Michigan study has shown that school attendance increases and asthmatic attacks decrease when school buses switched to low suffer diesel fuel.

    With over 45,000 school buses, NYS has the most school buses of any state by far. NYC with over 16,000 school buses has the most of any city. If NYC was a state it would rank in the top ten for the highest number of school buses. NYC also has the densest population of school buses with over 52 per square mile.

    Electric school buses offer a cleaner and safer alternative with zero tailpipe emissions. Every major school bus manufacturer will offer an electric alternative by 2020. Many electric school buses are currently operating in California and a few other states. NYS will also be getting $128 million from our share of the VW emissions scandal which can be used to help purchase electric school buses. NYC’s City Council also has a proposed bill, intro number 455-2018, which if passed will require that the City transition to zero-emission electric school buses by 2040.

    It is time Mayor Bill DeBlasio take a stand for the health of our City and children on this issue. The City’s 2040 plan to reduce GHG emissions does not even address school buses. But there are 3 times as many school buses as transit buses in the City. There is no way to get a 30 percent reduction of harmful diesel emissions if we do not address school buses. The Mayor needs to support legislation to require school buses used in NYC to transition to zero-emission all-electric school buses.
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