TriMet moves to buy electric buses, diesel free by 2040

Today, the TriMet Board of Directors unanimously adopted a resolution to begin buying electric buses and to be completely diesel-free by 2040.

We applaud TriMet for committing to transform its dirty diesel fleet to a modern electric fleet that greatly reduces life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, eliminates air pollution at the tailpipe, and saves the agency money.

Why is this so important?

  • Climate change is no longer a distant threat. It not only exacerbates current inequities, but also presents intergenerational inequities. As we consider who is alive today and fairness toward generations yet to be born, there is no issue greater than climate change. It is truly an existential crisis.

However, despite its best intentions, Oregon is not on track to meet its climate goals, especially when it comes to the transportation sector (the single largest source of GHG emissions). In fact, under the current trajectory Oregon will only reduce transportation emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2050, rather than the necessary 80%. And Oregon will never get to 80% below without electrifying transportation.

  • Diesel is also a source of toxic air pollution. Although new diesel buses are cleaner, electric buses are the best. E-buses produce zero air pollution at the tailpipe. And the greatest immediate health benefits will come about by using e-buses on routes that serve low-income and community of color communities.
  • Electric buses are already cheaper than diesel buses on a life-cycle basis, which frees up dollars for other important needs, like more transit service, and that delta will only get better as more transit agencies choose electric and create economies of scale.

The benefits of going electric are actually even larger than TriMet’s analysis predicts. Their analysis examines NOx (an air pollutant), CO2 (a climate pollutant), and noise, but doesn’t examine the social costs of air toxics in diesel exhaust, which—when reduced—will result in less cancer and longer lives. In addition, the climate benefits are analyzed based on today’s electricity grid rather than Oregon’s rapidly improving grid. Our in-state, coal-fired power plant will shut down by 2020, and no coal will be imported to power our grid by 2030. As cleaner renewable energy continues to displace fossil-fuel energy, the climate benefits of electric buses will be even greater.

Transit districts across the country have committed to purchasing electric buses and to purchasing no new diesel buses. In Oregon, Wilsonville’s transit agency, SMART, is even seeking to power its e-bus charging infrastructure with solar power. These agencies realize that solving the climate crisis requires leadership—committing to reducing ones own emissions so that others are encouraged to follow. Knitted together, the actions of many will change the world.

While Oregon Environmental Council would prefer to see more urgency in TriMet’s pilot program every diesel bus TriMet continues to purchase locks in 16 more years of pollution  the most important thing is that TriMet has taken the first step to eliminate diesel buses. We thank TriMet for becoming a leader today.

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