AMPING UP OUR BUSES
A few months ago, Molly Nichols of Pittsburghers for Public Transit hosted a presentation about electric buses. Several people from 350 Pittsburgh attended (Joe and Wanda Guthrie, Tom Hoffman, Fred Kraybill, Mark Dixon). We met a representative from Proterra, an electric bus company with manufacturing facilities in South Carolina, and we took a ride on a Proterra Electric bus. The bus ride was impressive, smooth, and quiet. We continued to meet as a group and adopted the statement below.
We also attended the June 24 Port Authority Board Meeting, where a number of people spoke on behalf of low- and zero-emission buses. Warwick Powell and I represented 350 Pittsburgh and we gave comments to the board. Warwick and I are very much sold on electric transport since we both drive electric vehicles.
"Port Authority is vital to our region’s prosperity. It is a lifeline to opportunity for thousands of Allegheny County’s residents. Transit can also dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, and make the communities it serves healthier. Above all else, it can be the platform upon which the City of Pittsburgh realizes its goal of halving its transportation emissions by 2030. This is vital not just to be a good global citizen, but also to improve the health of our most vulnerable residents.
However, for our most vulnerable and transit-reliant communities, the vehicles they ride provide them with one of the largest public health risks our region faces – poor air quality, especially in their very own communities. Fixing this will be a daunting challenge, but we must. It will take all of us to get there. I’m ready to help and that’s why I support this effort.
The Pittsburgh region has made significant strides, but we continue to have some of the dirtiest air in the nation, and diesel emissions are a contributor. Diesel particulate matter poses one of the greatest cancer risks from any toxic outdoor air pollutant in the region. In addition to causing cancer, diesel emissions are also linked to asthma, heart attacks, strokes, reduced brain function, and diabetes. Children are especially vulnerable as their bodies, including their lungs and brains, are still developing. And, a great many of those who are most vulnerable also live in some of our region’s most transit-reliant communities.
While Port Authority has made significant strides in the past 10 years, more can be done to reduce and ultimately eliminate the damaging effects of diesel emissions. Port Authority can also be a key partner in helping fulfill Pittsburgh’s COP21 stated goal of halving GHG emissions by 2030, and drastically improve community health for our most vulnerable residents.
Those of us who are part of this Green the Fleet initiative ask the Port Authority to do the following:
- Make it a goal for the entire fleet of buses, trains, inclines, and support vehicles to be fossil fuel-free by 2030;
- Replace any pre-2006 diesel buses – or engines – currently in revenue service as soon as possible, focusing efforts on buses which mostly serve low-moderate income and elderly populations first;
- Expand Port Authority’s diesel hybrid fleet as a step towards becoming fossil fuel-free;
- Prepare for - and seek opportunities to transition to - electric buses and necessary supportive infrastructure;
- Join the City of Pittsburgh and sign on to its 2030 emission reduction targets;
- Explore joining the City of Pittsburgh’s reverse energy auction program, whose fuel source blend currently stands at 25% renewable;
- Actively pursue "No-Lo" federal grants, available under the new FAST Act, to purchase low- and zero-emission vehicles and not compromise Port Authority’s current bus purchasing quantity goals;
- Work with the local community to implement these changes.
We are not here just to demand change. We stand as community partners with Port Authority, the City of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny County to change how transportation service is delivered in a way that not only reduces our carbon footprint, but provides a better quality of life and health outcomes for those most reliant upon this service. We applaud Port Authority’s signing on to the American Public Transportation Sustainability Commitment and beginning to look at how it reduces its carbon footprint. But more can be done. This coalition stands ready to help Port Authority be a cleaner, more attractive transit operator – for itself, the communities who rely upon it, and our environment."