As Bronx-born mothers and advocates for children with disabilities, we’ve experienced firsthand how unhealthy, stressful and dysfunctional our school transportation system can be.
The school buses our kids spend hours on each day in New York City often have old diesel or gas engines, and break down frequently. Being exposed to air pollution and noise is a constant health risk for students, drivers and other personnel on these buses along with the communities who live close to the large garages that house these school buses.
Dirty buses are a particular problem in the Bronx, where residents have one of the highest asthma rates in New York City, and respiratory issues from breathing in harmful fumes regularly can cause students to miss school, affecting their overall academic performance, and even result in hospitalizations. In fact, the attorney general just settled with a large Bronx-based bus company found to be polluting the Hunts Point community with illegal engine idling.
But there’s good news on the horizon: Voters in New York state now have the chance to help our schools replace more than 45,000 thousand diesel and gas school buses with modern, clean all-electric buses as part of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act that will be on ballots for this upcoming election in November.
If this bond act is approved by voters, New York state will earmark $500 million that will help school districts to purchase zero-emissions electric buses, install chargers and train workers on electric fleet maintenance and operation.
Part of the bond act ensures that at least 35-40% of the investments of the new school buses go towards communities that are under-resourced and are burdened, including the Bronx neighborhoods that are home to large school bus depots and garages.
Our communities, children and school bus staff are entitled to healthier, greener school buses and it’s in our hands as New Yorkers to make this a reality by voting yes for the Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Bond Act on Election Day.
Suhali Méndez is the policy and legislative coordinator at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. Maria Torres is president and chief operating officer at The POINT CDC.