A coalition of public health, environmental, and faith groups today called on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (Metro) newly constituted board of directors to scrap the Metrobus Fleet Plan the previous board approved last June and replace it with one that accelerates the agency’s transition to an all-electric fleet.
The Metro Electric Bus Coalition provided the eight-member board with an analysis of the plan the staff presented to the previous board showing that it was riddled with significant inaccuracies and outdated data. Six of the current board members were not involved in developing the plan. (The coalition also provided the board with a memo explaining how fossil fuel buses threaten public health and the climate.)
“The previous Metro board did not have the information it needed to make an informed decision about the future of the Metrobus fleet,” said Steve Banashek, the electric vehicle chair for the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter, a coalition member. “In light of our analysis of the staff’s deficient plan, the new board should direct the transit agency to fast-track its electric bus procurement schedule, which — as it now stands — would condemn D.C. metropolitan area residents to decades of fossil fuel bus pollution.”
According to the schedule adopted by the previous board, electric buses will comprise less than 20% of Metro’s 1,590 bus fleet in 2030, the same year the Los Angeles transit agency, with its 2,320 buses, and Houston’s transit agency, with more than 1,230 buses, plan to have all-electric fleets. Meanwhile, the Chicago Transit Authority (1,864 buses), King County (Seattle) Metro (1,600 buses), and New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (5,920 buses) are scheduled to be all-electric by 2040. If Metro sticks to the schedule adopted last June, its fleet will not be fully electric until 2045.
“We recommend that the new board direct Metro to buy only electric buses from now on,” said Tim Oberleiton, senior attorney with Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign, another coalition member. “That would enable the Metro to electrify 45% its fleet by 2030. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” he added, “recently issued a report that said that to keep average global temperatures from going up any more than 1.5 degrees Celsius — the pledge that nearly 200 nations made in the Paris climate agreement — global carbon emissions will have to drop 45% this decade. Metro,” he said, “has to do its part.”
In February, the Washington, D.C., Council echoed the coalition’s recommendation, unanimously adopting a resolution calling on Metro to electrify “at least 50% of its bus fleet by 2030.” “Going forward,” the resolution states, “WMATA must buy only electric buses.” Last year, four dozen elected officials, including four U.S. House members and more than 30 Maryland state legislators, also urged Metro to replace half its nearly 1,600 fossil fuel buses by the end of the decade.
The coalition recommends that Metro do the following:
- Stop buying fossil fuel buses after the last of the fossil fuel buses are delivered from its 2018 contract with New Flyer, move expeditiously to complete its electric bus pilot project, and then, during its next five-year procurement cycle from fiscal year 2024 through fiscal year 2028, buy only electric buses. Metro should install electric bus charging infrastructure at bus garages in all three jurisdictions to accommodate the purchase of 100 electric buses annually.
- Cancel its plans to 1) increase the percentage of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in the fleet, 2) build a new CNG fueling facility at the Shepherd Parkway garage, and 3) expand the Bladensburg garage’s capacity to fuel more CNG buses. (Elected officials in the region also oppose expanding Metro’s reliance on methane.)
- Cancel plans to install new diesel-related storage tanks and infrastructure at the Northern Bus garage and only house electric buses there after the renovation is complete. “It makes no sense for Metro to spend millions of dollars on new diesel infrastructure that will become a stranded asset,” said Taalib-Din Uqdah of the Northern Bus Barn Neighbors, a coalition partner. “We have had enough of diesel bus noise and pollution.” (The D.C. Council resolution also states that Metro “should no longer house diesel buses” at Northern.)
- Initially deploy electric buses at garages in low-income and environmental justice neighborhoods to ensure the buses benefit area residents who are disproportionately harmed by smog and other transportation-related air pollution.
“Major transit agencies across the country are facing similar challenges as Metro,” said Elliott Negin of the Union of Concerned Scientists, another coalition member. “But unlike Metro, they are addressing those challenges head on and have ambitious plans to electrify their fleets as quickly as possible. There is no reason why Metro cannot do the same.”
The Metro Electric Bus Coalition includes: ANS (formerly Audubon Naturalist Society), D.C. Environmental Network, Earthjustice, Electric Vehicle Association of Metropolitan Washington, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, Green Latinos, Greenpeace USA, Loudon Climate Project, Maryland Legislative Coalition, Moms Clean Air Force, Northern Bus Barn Neighbors, Northern Bus Garage Community Environment Committee, Sierra Club D.C. Chapter, Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, and Union of Concerned Scientists.