NJ Transit needs a Dedicated Source of Funding to Electrify its Bus Fleet

Media Contacts
Hayley Berliner

NJ Transit Board Testimony, October 20, 2021

Hayley Berliner, Environment New Jersey

 Good evening, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Hayley Berliner, and I am the Clean Energy Advocate at Environment New Jersey. Environment New Jersey is one of the state’s largest citizen-based environmental advocacy organizations, representing more than 20,000 dues-paying members and more than 60,000 activists. 

 We are pleased to see that NJ Transit is moving forward on its commitment to procure New Jersey’s first electric transit buses. As the Board knows, NJ Transit is mandated to have 10% of all new bus purchases be electric by 2024, 50% by 2026 and 100% by 2032 according to the 2020 EV Law. The procurement of eight new electric buses, which NJ Transit committed to almost three years ago, is the first step towards reaching those mandates. 

 More than 40% of New Jersey’s emissions come from the transportation sector, and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles account for about ⅓ of those emissions. Specifically, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, like transit buses, emit toxic pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter that disproportionately impact overburdened communities especially in our cities.   Electrifying these vehicles will not only benefit our climate and environment and bring us closer to hitting Governor Murphy’s ambitious mandates, but it will also have enormous health benefits. A study from Columbia University estimates that the public health benefit of replacing just one diesel bus with an electric alternative is equivalent to $150,000 in reduced respiratory and other diseases.

 Electrifying NJ Transit’s bus fleet will provide a much cleaner and healthier ride for the thousands of New Jerseyans riding the buses each day. However, this won’t be easy. As President Corbett mentioned earlier, the eight new electric buses going to Camden will be purchased with $10 million in grants from the NJDEP Volkswagen Settlement funding and from EPA Lo-No grants. This is the start of NJ Transit’s bus electrification transition plan, which was outlined this May during the Energy & Sustainability Committee. But without other significant sources of state and federal funding, it will be difficult for NJ Transit to purchase the required electric buses and retrofit the garages with charging infrastructure. A study released by New Jersey Policy Perspective earlier this year estimated that it would cost NJ Transit $1.96 billion to replace its entire diesel bus fleet with electric buses, and that doesn’t even include the cost of garage retrofits or charging infrastructure. 

 This clearly spotlights the need for more funding for electric bus purchases and electric charging infrastructure, which will need to accelerate over the next three years to be able to hit the 2024 mandate. There’s a clear need for a dedicated source of funding for NJ Transit so the agency can stop raiding its own capital budget to fund its operating expenses, leaving little funding left to upgrade its current infrastructure, install charging stations, or even purchase new electric buses without significant new grant funding from the state and federal governments.

 It’s crucial that these new buses get up and running in Camden as soon as possible so that the riders and drivers can breathe cleaner air, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and NJ Transit can learn from the pilot rollout before it expands to other cities. It is crucial that NJ Transit hits the mandates of the 2020 EV Law by ensuring that 10% of its new bus purchases are electric by 2024. But hitting that mandate will require additional capital funding and likely a dedicated source of funding.