Los Angeles announced the purchase of 130 electric buses in November 2019 as part of its climate plan to electrify 100 percent of its fleet by 2030. New York deployed the first 15 of its 500 electric buses a month later, as part of its plan to go 100 percent electric by 2040. Meanwhile, D.C.’s metro system—the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority—has one electric bus, according to a new report from the Sierra Club. WMATA has plans to test up to 14 more as part of a pilot program next year.
“In this rapidly evolving landscape, WMATA has not kept pace with other major US cities such as New York, Chicago, and Seattle, all of which have committed to fully electrify their public transit bus fleets by 2040 or before,” the report says.
The report adds that the tri-jurisdictional government agency is still operating under a 2017 plan that has it purchase 100 percent new diesel or compressed natural gas (CNG) buses every year until 2025. WMATA has made no public commitment to reach 100 percent electrification by any year.
Now, the Sierra Club and partner organizations are calling on WMATA to commit to 100 percent electrification of its bus fleet by 2045 or sooner, and to take immediate step towards achieving that goal. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin agree.
The groups argue that electrifying half of Metro’s 1,500-plus bus fleet by 2030 would save the agency at least $350 million over the lifetime of its fleet while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 58,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Improving the air quality in the region would also save residents millions of dollars in health care costs, the report adds.
In an email statement to City Paper, WMATA pointed out that its riders are using an environmentally-friendly option by riding the rail or bus and that it has a pilot program for electric buses.
“Moving toward a zero-emissions fleet will require region wide cooperation and investment that cannot be accomplished by Metro alone. A transition to zero-emission buses will require investments in utility infrastructure to supply power to buses, updates to policies and rate structures across the region, and funding to replace the existing fleet with zero-emission buses and upgrade Metrobus facilities to charge and maintain them,” says the spokesperson”
“Metro is working with our regional partners to pursue these opportunities and provide an even more sustainable transportation future,” they added.
The D.C. Council passed ambitious legislation to address climate change in 2019. In the Clean Energy DC Act signed into law January 2019, lawmakers called on public and private bus fleets of more than 50 to be zero-emission by 2045. Mayor Muriel Bowser started electrifying buses within her control. The Circulator has had 14 electric buses in service since 2018.
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This post has been updated to include comment from WMATA.
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