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Future of School Transportation

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see the impact of the bipartisan infrastructure law on the school bus industry. In case you hadn’t heard, our industry will receive $2.5 billion in funding for electric school buses and another $2.5 billion in funding toward low-emission school buses, like propane and CNG, over the next five years. It’s the most federal funding the school bus industry has ever received, so there is a lot to be excited about.

Related: Historic & Infrastructure Bill Starts Flow of Electric School Bus Funding
Related: Propane Advocates Discuss Benefits of Propane-Fueled School Buses
Related: (STN Podcast E71) Coming in Hot: Serving Students With Onboard Wi-Fi and Clean Fuel School Buses

The idea of curbing emissions from school buses and eliminating millions of tons of greenhouse gases each year is inspiring, not to mention the unrealized health and wellness benefits for our children, too.

According to a recent survey conducted for the American Lung Association, 68 percent of U.S. voters support significant federal investments to transition the country’s school buses from diesel-powered vehicles to electric, zero-emission buses.

Related: (STN Podcast E92) Conversations at STN EXPO Reno: Twin Rivers USD’s Electric School Bus Journey
Related: Enthusiasm for Federal School Bus Funding Reflected at STN EXPO Reno

During a recent panel discussion at STN EXPO in Reno, Tim Shannon, the director of transportation at Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento, California, agreed that electric buses are currently more expensive to purchase than their diesel counterparts. But, as Twin Rivers has the most experience nationwide in operating electric school buses over the past six years, he’s seen significant savings on fuel, parts and maintenance costs. Also, creative funding models and California state grants have allowed Shannon to invest in over 40 electric school buses and infrastructure. He shared a compelling story on the benefits of investing in electric school buses.

Last month on the School Transportation Nation Podcast, I also spoke with Stephen Whaley, the director of autogas business development for the Propane Education Research Council, about the Environmental Protection Agency’s request for input from the public about the Clean School Bus Program. He implored our listeners to share their own stories about the benefits of propane school buses, if they wanted a piece of this funding for their districts efforts to go green. He also mentioned the importance of acting now before the window for comments closes.

Related: Transportation Directors Use Webinar to Share Benefits of Propane School Buses
Related: (Recorded Webinar) Energy for Everyone: How Propane Autogas is Revolutionizing School Transportation

I suggest you take his advice and share your own stories as soon as possible by emailing the EPA at cleanschoolbus@epa.gov. It’s quick and easy to tell the EPA how your propane or EV school buses have improved public health, lowered costs, reduced noise, and cut emissions in your district.

I have been around long enough to know that school buses have a long-life cycle. I know some school districts have to keep buses around for 20 years or more, but that comes at a steep price. The total cost of ownership skyrockets when maintaining an older diesel fleet of school buses, due to more duty cycles, increased labor and higher parts expenses. Also, these older buses emit more pollution, so what is the impact to our kids and the environment around them?

Recent headlines have suggested that a lighter version of the Build Back Better Act with a focus on energy and the environment could also be reintroduced in Congress. Our industry will have to wait and see if more funding for electric and low emission school buses will be included in this piece of legislation. Regardless of what happens, our industry has set a course towards a greener and brighter future.

Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the February 2022 issue of School Transportation Nation.

Related: March 2022
Related: January 2022

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