Special to the Times
Mayor Michelle Wu celebrated the arrival of the first two electric school buses to the Boston Public Schools (BPS) school bus fleet. An additional 18 buses will arrive in the coming weeks and are expected to be in use following the February school vacation. This is a major milestone in creating a Green New Deal for the City of Boston, leading to immediate health and quality-of-life improvements for Boston students, workers, and residents, while advancing climate action. Mayor Wu joined BPS Superintendent Mary Skipper, Green New Deal Director Oliver Sellers-Garcia, BPS Director of Transportation Dan Rosengard, bus driver trainers, and community members at the Readville bus yard in Hyde Park to see how these electric buses are being integrated into the fleet.
“I’m grateful to the many people who have been instrumental in getting Boston to this point and helping us demonstrate the many overlapping benefits of moving to a green economy and ensuring that our kids and our workforce are at the center of that transition,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Today is one of many steps we are taking to make Boston a Green New Deal city and to move with the urgency that our communities and residents deserve. From cutting down on emissions from every part of our education infrastructure – where our students learn and how they get to class – to preparing our next generation of workers to build and sustain cleaner, greener infrastructure for all of us, we’re so excited about where this will lead Boston.”
“Our children deserve to learn, grow up, and play while enjoying clean air and experiencing a healthy environment free of air pollution,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper. “When these buses hit the road, they will operate with zero emissions and significantly lower noise levels than their diesel-fuel counterparts. So when you see the buses with the green bird with a plug logo on each side, be sure to wave and smile as they and the children inside represent our great city’s future.”
“As a City, we know we must prioritize the development of electric vehicle infrastructure to support the future of green mobility in Boston to advance our Green New Deal for all of our residents,” said Green New Deal Director Oliver Sellers-Garcia. “I’m grateful to Boston Public Schools for their leadership in making critical climate investments while supporting the health of our communities and growing our green workforce trained with these skills.”
The BPS Department of Transportation carefully selected the first routes – 111 trips, across 42 schools – to run electric school buses based on a variety of factors, including distance from the dispatch yard charging station, total length of route, and the expected traffic patterns along the route, with a preference for stop-and-go traffic rather than highway driving. Additionally, the cold weather deployment was factored into route selection to ensure power supply for battery conditioning and bus heating. Routes travel through nearly all of Boston’s neighborhoods.
BPS is finalizing installation of 20 charging stations at the Readville bus yard, utilizing increased charging capacity that was added with support from Eversource. Each electric bus will have a dedicated charger and be charged every day. The total time to charge each bus is about three to four hours. The learnings from this first phase of electric school bus deployment will support the City in designing and implementing future electric school bus fleet expansion.
Prior to integrating the 20 buses into the fleet, BPS is training driver trainers, drivers, mechanics, operations staff, and emergency responders to ensure familiarity with the bus design and operation. During the upcoming February vacation, drivers will test routes to ensure they are comfortable driving the new buses in advance of students boarding later this month. An estimated 2,561 students across 42 schools will be riding the 20 buses each school day. BPS currently has 620 buses on the road each day.
Boston’s Green New Deal works to address climate change with positive co-benefits including creating good jobs, enhancing public health, and transforming structures to promote racial and economic justice. School bus electrification will protect children from diesel particulate matter, eliminate tailpipe emissions, address air quality and noise concerns around school pick-up and drop-off, and offer a healthier work environment for bus drivers and monitors. The City of Boston is fostering the Green New Deal by leveraging funding to invest in solutions that improve the lives of Bostonians and catalyze the transition to a just, green City.
In April 2022, Mayor Wu first announced that up to 20 electric school buses would be deployed during the 2022-23 school year. These electric buses will replace existing diesel buses. These buses were funded through the BPS operating budget and the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Mayor Wu previously shared the goal that BPS will work to replace additional big buses each year, and then move to replacing smaller buses until the entire fleet is electrified by 2030.
Additionally last spring, the Public Works Central Fleet Maintenance Division introduced the first ever train-the-trainer class for fleet mechanics from the Public Works Department (PWD) and BPS on how to safely service and repair electric vehicles at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. To date, eight mechanics from the PWD and two from BPS have completed the course and continue to take online classes to keep pace with the ever-changing technology. Beginning in the fall of this year, electric vehicle maintenance will be added as part of the core curriculum for seniors participating in Madison Park’s automotive program.
This celebration will lay the foundation for the future of the Boston Public Schools bus fleet. The City intends to use federal funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and Inflation Reduction Act to further expand the number of electric buses in the fleet and enhance training for staff. The City has been making progress on its commitment to installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations throughout Boston’s neighborhoods for both municipal use and residents. The City currently operates 66 LV II EV charging plugs across 14 municipal parking lots. There are plans to add an additional 18 LV II EV charging plugs, and four high-speed LV III DC fast chargers this year. This investment in public charging, along with the City’s EV readiness policy for new development and right-to-charge rules for condominium residents provide a foundation for the rapid, equitable electrification of transportation in Boston. The City also continues to electrify its vehicle fleet, adding charging plugs where City vehicles are garaged, prioritizing EVs in its replacement cycle, and adding its first all-electric street sweeper last year.