DASHing to a Clean Electric Bus Future for Los Angeles

By Michelle Kinman
Director, Charge Ahead California Campaign

The millions of people who live, work and play in Los Angeles will soon be able to breathe a little easier thanks to a forward-thinking City Council decision today to transition the entire Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) bus fleet to electric buses by 2030 or earlier.

You might be thinking: Wait, didn’t Los Angeles already commit to an all-electric bus future?

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) made a historic commitment this summer to commit its full fleet of more than 2,450 buses to electric buses by 2030. Today’s decision by the City Council complements Metro’s leadership by ensuring that the LADOT’s 350 plus bus fleet — primarily DASH and Commuter Express buses — will also go electric. Together, these two commitments alone represent more than quarter of all transit buses in California.

On top of that, two other Los Angeles County transit agencies — Antelope Valley Transit Authority and Foothill Transit — have also made commitments to a fully electrified bus fleet and over 25 transit agencies statewide have made electric bus investments.

It is clear that Los Angeles leaders are in the driver’s seat of the electric bus revolution, and not a moment too soon. It’s no secret that the Los Angeles metro area struggles with the dirtiest air in the nation, and that the vehicles that we use to get from point A to point B create more of this pollution than any other single source. Or that this pollution disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color who tend to live closer to busy roads and freeways. Finally, our climate is changing at a pace even faster than scientists predicted, putting our communities and our planet in grave danger.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Electric buses are a critical part of the solution — a 100 percent renewable future that spans all sectors of our economy, including electricity, heating and the transportation sector.

Electric buses are here and ready to roll. That means no gasoline, no dirty oil changes, no internal combustion engine and no dirty exhaust. For every compressed natural gas bus that we replace with an electric bus, we save up to 170,000 pounds of carbon emissions each year and help meet the state’s climate and air quality goals.

Now that our city and county leaders have shown that electric buses are the future, there is every reason for the Los Angeles Unified School District and all school districts in the state to make similar commitments to electric buses. These clean, safe vehicles can bring our kids to and from school, save school districts money in reduced fueling and maintenance costs (always a good idea), and not pollute the air. Can you imagine if they also used the buses as energy storage devices while the kids are in school? The bus batteries could store clean electricity from school solar panels and then sell that electricity back to the grid when needed. That’s a solution that makes the grade.

As the federal administration works to put the brakes on the clean vehicle revolution — proposing just last week to repeal the federal tax credit for electric vehicles — Los Angeles leaders offer a breath of fresh air. Thank you to Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Jose Huizar, the full City Council, Mayor Eric Garcetti, LADOT and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power for working together to accelerate the transition to a clean electric bus future.

The only question now is which transit agency will be next to jump on board? Or maybe it will be a school board?