With the Inflation Reduction Act supporting the beginning of a transition to clean school buses, elected officials in Florida are calling for quicker action.
The Miami-Dade County Public School System has ordered 10 electric school buses, with delivery expected next summer.
While it’s well known that electric school buses will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, a less talked about issue is kids’ and bus drivers’ long-term exposure to diesel exhaust.
The National Institutes of Health says exposure to diesel exhaust particulates is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.
Research indicates the amount of fine particulates inside a school bus can be 5 to 10 times higher than the surrounding atmosphere, and it’s worse when buses sit still at idle.
Former Mayor of Pinecrest and former Florida state Rep. Cindy Lerner – who is currently on the national leadership council of Elected Officials to Protect America – said the transition to electric buses has advocates excited.
“We are really very excited about it,” said Lerner, “not only because of the reduction in the greenhouse-gas emissions, but the significant health hazards to lung development – and even to brain development – in children by sitting on the school bus twice a day 5 days a week.”
A half-hour ride to and from school each day amounts to 180 hours over a school year.
Earlier this year, the Miami-Dade School District adopted a resolution to move the district to 100 percent clean energy by 2030. The funding for this first purchase of School Bus Electrification came out of Florida’s portion of the Volkswagen diesel settlement.
While the district will again apply to the Environmental Protection Agency Clean School Bus award program next year, advocates are calling for state-level action.
Lerner pointed to states such as Connecticut that passed its own Clean Air Act this year and will transition all state vehicles to electric by 2030. She said advocates in Florida must appeal to the state to do more.
“That’ll be our project over the next couple years,” said Lerner, “to go forward to the state and ask them to take that kind of action to set standards and to invest in clean transportation for school children throughout the state of Florida.”
The Miami-Dade County Public School system is 4th largest in the nation, and with that comes a large fleet of buses. The district’s buses currently log 13 million miles per year.
Luisa Santos represents District 9 on the Miami Dade School Board and said School Bus Electrification, a fleet of this size will have a large impact on air quality.
“Our goal, really, is that we are working to electrify all 999 buses in our fleet,” said Santos. “That is a huge number, and so if we can get it right, our impact will be tremendous.”