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The Mass Media

Boston Public Schools to launch electric school bus pilot program


A Boston Public School bus drives through Broadway Street in South Boston.

Boston Public Schools will begin a pilot program for electric school buses, with 20 buses being procured during the 2022-23 academic year.  BPS and the Boston Environment Department are working in conjunction to minimize gas emissions, and they plan to do this by converting diesel school buses to electric vehicles, with the goal of completely electrifying the bus fleet by 2030.

“Climate justice is racial and economic justice. And this moment requires an urgent, all hands on deck approach from every level of government to reduce emissions and boost the health, safety and opportunity of our communities,” said Mayor Michelle Wu.

This announcement reflects Mayor Wu’s commitment to the Green New Deal which the administration signed during its inaugural office days. In December 2021, the City Council Committee on Environment, Resiliency and Parks announced several major steps the administration planned to implement later this year.  One of these steps was the Fleet Utilization Policy, which will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by the vehicle fleet. Additionally, electric vehicles and expansion of the electric vehicle charging stations were proposed.

The procurement of 20 buses is just a small fraction of the 739 total buses that constitute the whole BPS vehicle fleet. According to the City of Boston, since 2016, the BPS buses have been using a liquid called propane which is considered to be a better substitute for diesel. Electric vehicles “will eliminate tailpipe emissions, address air quality and noise concerns around school pick-up and drop-off, offer a healthier work environment for bus drivers and monitors, and potentially offer cost savings over the entire bus life cycle.”

Mayor Wu’s office reported that the first plan is to electrify the large buses, followed by the smaller ones in the coming years. The estimated amount each bus costs to electrify is $350,000, with a total of $258.6 million.

Mayor Wu is hopeful about the growth of the number of green jobs in the workforce by introducing the “train the trainer program, a partnership with the Public Works Department and Madison Park Technical Vocational High School.”

The pilot program is expected to begin in the next eight to ten months, as the city will use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act as well as BPS’s operating budget to pay for the new buses.

“I am excited to see this policy come to life and am grateful for the partnership with the City to take these critical steps to upgrading our school bus fleet,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Brenda Cassellius.

Climate and environmental justice have been one of the central goals of Wu’s administration. The Boston Green New Deal is a roadmap and an ambitious plan to address climate issues at the city level. This deal entails policies and programs centered around transportation access, urban tree canopy restoration, and accelerated transformation to a carbon-free economy. The administration has already taken “steps to fulfill the bold climate and environmental commitments.” This includes Wu signing a fossil-fuel divestment policy to expand the fare-free bus lines. The landmark Fossil Fuel Divestment ordinance will divest the “City’s $1.3 billion trust funds from fossil fuels.”

To spread more awareness about the climate and environmental issues, information about electric vehicle maintenance will be implemented as a part of the core curriculum for the students who will be participating in the Madison Park Automotive Technology Program beginning in the fall. This program is for high school students, and it helps them to acquire an integrated career and academic education. Through this program, students were able to land careers as mechanics with the Public Works Department.

On Feb. 14, Wu appointed Davo Jefferson as the new executive director for the City of Boston’s Youth Green Jobs program. “The Green Economy is a multi-billion dollar industry, so I am happy to be preparing people for employment opportunities that will not only allow them to earn a livable wage and take care of their families, but they’ll also be helping to take care of the environment,” said Jefferson.

About the Contributor
Kaushar Barejiya, News Editor