Testimony: Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act

Our testimony in support of SB 137, a bill to transition the state bus fleet to zero-emissions vehicles, sponsored by Senator Zucker.

Mariah MacKenzie

HB334:  Maryland Transit Administration – Conversion to Zero-Emission Buses (Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act)

Environment and Transportation

Position: Favorable

February 12th, 2021

Maryland PIRG and Environment Maryland support SB137 to transition the Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) bus fleet to Zero-Emission buses. Starting in FY 2023, the bill prohibits MTA from entering into new contracts to purchase buses that are not Zero-Emission.  

Buses play a key role in Maryland’s transportation system, reducing traffic congestion and helping Marylanders get to work, school, and play. Yet, the vast majority of these buses remain dirty – burning fossil fuels like diesel that put the health of our children and communities at risk and contribute to global warming. Commuting to work or school shouldn’t include a daily dose of toxic pollution, or increase the chances that people will get sick. And why would we continue to use dirty diesel buses if they are making the climate crisis worse?

Numerous studies have shown that inhaling diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions like asthma. Diesel exhaust is internationally recognized as a cancer-causing agent and classified as a likely carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In a study of 61 million people in 2015, researchers found that exposure to diesel soot and ground-level ozone created by diesel exhaust was linked to higher rates of mortality. Diesel pollution is especially dangerous for children — for children there is no established safe level of exposure to diesel exhaust pollutants. 

Each year, pollution from cars, trucks and other vehicles cuts short an estimated 58,000 lives in the United States, and increases the risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart disease. Transportation is also now Maryland’s number one source of greenhouse gases, with emissions from cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles surpassing every other source.

The good news is that Maryland can clean up its buses by making them electric. All-electric buses are here, and they’re cleaner, healthier and often cheaper for the state and bus contractors to run in the long-term. With no tailpipe emissions, electric buses can drastically reduce the pollution Maryland’s children and families are exposed to. 

Dramatic declines in battery costs and improvements in performance, including expanded driving range, have made electric buses a viable alternative to diesel-powered and other fossil fuel buses. So while electric buses are essential to protect public health and the environment, they are also smart investments. 

As we respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and work to safely reopen and recover, we must do so in a way that moves Maryland forward to improve our health, builds stronger communities, and creates accessible, safe ways to get around. 

Marylanders deserve access to transportation and safe air to breathe. Thanks to pollution, they’re not getting safe rides on diesel buses. It’s time to switch to all-electric buses. 

We respectfully request a favorable report.

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Mariah MacKenzie