Clean Buses for Healthy Niños

May 13, 2021


Check out our video on the need to electrify school buses across the state. 

Bethlehem and Croton Vote for Electric School Buses

Voters in the Bethlehem and Croton-Harmon school districts voted in favor of purchasing zero-emission school buses for students.

All School Buses In NYC Will Be Electric By 2035

NYC Mayor de Blasio announced a commitment to school bus electrification is a monumental step towards our goal.  However, there is still more work to be done in order to ensure that this commitment is upheld by the next mayor and that it is codified into law. Read more.

NYC Clean School Bus Coalition

We formed a new coalition to fight for zero-emission school buses in New York City, and to ensure that Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to electrification is upheld. Read the announcement here and visit the coalition website here.

Clean Bus Guide

We are excited to release our Clean Bus Guide, a toolkit we put together to help communities around the state promote the transition to electric school buses. Organize your own electric school bus campaign using our Clean Bus Guide. It provides talking points about the harmful public health and environmental impacts of diesel pollution, information on key stakeholders to involve in your campaign, information on funding for electric school buses, campaign organizing tips and strategies, and more. Let’s continue the fight for clean school buses together! Get the guide for free at

On September 30th, as part of Drive Electric Week, we held a webinar with the Drive Electric Long Island Coalition and Mothers Out Front Long Island to walk through our Clean Bus Guide. Click here to access the webinar recording and learn how you can launch a successful campaign to bring emission free electric school buses to your local school district! Passcode for the recording is H7KX0Hi=

VW Settlement

In September 2015, the EPA filed a complaint against Volkswagen for cheating federal emission tests. Volkswagen admitted to illegally using software to bypass pollution control systems. The illegal tampering resulted in certain vehicles releasing dangerous diesel emissions, up to 40 times the U.S. EPA compliance level, and polluting our air.
In the final settlement agreement, Volkswagen agreed to spend up to $14.7 billion on remediation efforts to limit diesel emissions. $2.7 billion will go towards the establishment of Mitigation Trusts in impacted States for the implementation of clean transportation programs. New York State is set to receive $127 million dollars, which will be allocated through the Department of Environmental Conservation. Read the New York Community Trust’s coverage of the settlement.

As part of our Clean Buses for Healthy Niños (CBHN) Campaign, we asked Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation to put our children’s health and safety first and use the state’s $127 million Volkswagen settlement to fund electric school buses in environmental justice communities. In September 2018, DEC and Governor Cuomo committed to allocating 40% ($52.4 million) of the VW Settlement toward cleaning up buses and prioritizing environmental justice communities. These funds will be available through the New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program (NYTVIP) in 2020. More information coming soon.

Public Health Risks from Diesel Emissions 

Exposure to diesel emissions can be detrimental to your health. Air pollutants, such as Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Elemental Carbon (EC), and Ozone (O3) are all byproducts of diesel emissions and immediately irritate lung airways and exacerbate asthma symptoms. Some symptoms of short-term exposure include decreased lung function, respiratory tract inflammation and irritation, aggravated asthma symptoms, and persistent wheezing.

Over time, exposure to these air pollutants can lead to chronic conditions. Diesel emission exposure has also been linked to higher rates of lung cancer and greater risk for bladder cancer. Some studies link lower birth weight and decreased lung function in newborns to ozone levels in their communities. A 2017 study links fine particulate matter and smog (ground-level ozone) to higher rates of mortality.

Children are especially vulnerable to the dangerous health impacts of diesel pollution because of their physiology and anatomy, making them more susceptible to asthma and chronic respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. Air pollution limits lung growth among children and those who grow up in more polluted areas may never reach full lung capacity.

In New York City, African American children are five times (22%) as likely as white children (4%) to be diagnosed with asthma. Latino children are three times as likely (15%) and Asian children are twice as likely (10%).

Asthma-related illnesses are a leading cause of school absenteeism. In 2013, the EPA reported 13.8 million missed school days due to asthma in the U.S. Children with asthma typically lose an additional 2.8 days of school than their non-asthmatic peers. In 2012, the median annual medical costs of asthma were $983 per child in the U.S.

Read our Whitepaper on the need for electric school buses!

The effects in Albany, NY:

11.1% of adults in Albany currently suffer from asthma. Some areas of Albany County reach a 40% asthma rate, compared to the countywide average of 11%. Parts of Albany have 5x the asthma-related emergency department visit rates and 4x the asthma hospitalization rates than the rest of the State. “Bomb trains,” freight trucks and school buses all contribute to the deteriorating air quality in Albany and exacerbate health problems.

Capital Region children have the highest hospitalization and emergency department visit rates of any age group (both are 60% higher than the overall regional average). Between 2011 and 2013, Children from ages 0-17 faced a higher rate of asthma hospitalization than both the capital region and upstate rates. In the same years, Albany children had a higher rate of emergency department visits.

When adjusted for race, the same report shows that in Albany, minority communities were hospitalized for asthma-related symptoms at a higher rate than non-Hispanic Whites. Non-Hispanic Blacks were nearly 5 times (34.2%) as likely and Hispanics were about twice as likely (11.2%) to be hospitalized for asthma-related symptoms as non-Hispanic Whites (6.9%), per every 100,000 persons.

The effects in Brooklyn, NY:

Some Brooklyn neighborhoods have disproportionately poor air pollution rates compared to the city average and worryingly higher rates of childhood asthma. In Brooklyn, child asthma hospitalizations rates are around 50 children per every 10,000, opposed to a rate of 36 children per every 10,000 citywide. The neighborhood of Carroll Gardens-Red Hook in Brooklyn has some of the highest rates of asthma prevalence among Medicaid recipients

Among Brooklyn children, the asthma rate is 310.87 per 100,000 children, which higher than the New York State’s overall rate of 210.39. Department of Health suggests the majority of asthma visits in Brooklyn are among very young children between the ages of two and five.

The effects in Buffalo, NY: 

Western Buffalo has a serious asthma epidemic. It is among the top 25 asthma capitals in the nation, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Nearly 45% of West Side households reported at least one case of chronic respiratory illness or asthma. 

These abnormally high asthma rates for Western New York, and the West Side in particular, can be attributed to vehicle emissions from the Peace Bridge, the busiest US–Canada crossing point for commercial traffic in the eastern United States. Over the past decade, there has been a steady increase in commercial traffic over the Peace Bridge due to increased trade. Approximately 5,000 trucks and 20,000 cars pass through the western side of Buffalo everyday. 

Benefits of Electric School Buses

Misconception #1: The upfront costs of Electric School Buses are too high.

Electric buses can range from $230,000-$330,000 and can be twice as expensive as purchasing a standard school bus. While the upfront costs of electric buses can be daunting, there are many national, state, and local grants and partnerships designed to ease the initial financial burden. All electric school buses currently on the roads have been funded by grant programs and partnerships—and the VW Settlement offers a unique opportunity to supplement the costs even further.

Over time, electric school buses can actually save a school district money. Each electric school bus can save a district $2,000 in fuel costs per year, $4,400 in reduced maintenance costs per year, and around $31,000 over a bus’s lifetime. If the bus is equipped to send stored energy back to the electricity grid, it could potentially generate $6,000 in revenue each year.

Misconception #2: The Charging Infrastructure is too expensive and difficult to install.

Federal and state funding programs are available to alleviate some of the costs of purchasing new charging infrastructure. The VW settlement agreement also considers charging stations and equipment to be an eligible project for the State Environmental Mitigation funds.

Charging stations are also relatively easy to install at existing bus depots and parking lots. With Level 2 Charging: 240V being the most common system for electric buses.

Misconception #3: The Training for Mechanics and Drivers will be time-consuming and unnecessary.

Bus driver training is often routine and ensures safety and optimal operation of vehicles. Electric bus training ensures that the buses are running efficiently and producing the maximum health and economic benefits throughout the bus’ operating life. Another added benefit is the health impact for drivers. Being on the bus is the most at risk in terms of diesel pollution, and drivers ride the bus longer than anyone else. Switching to an electric bus means that the driver is no longer exposed to harmful pollutants at work.

Electric Operations and Maintenance is a new, growing job market, providing employment opportunities to individuals within the community. In several states, such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California, training courses and workshops are already available to train mechanics.


Coalition Launch and 2020–2021 Agenda Release

On Children’s Health Day 2020, a coalition launched that aims to phase out all school buses running on fossil fuels and transition to all-electric buses by 2040. Along with the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, coalition members include New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, North Brooklyn Neighbors, 350Brooklyn, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Earthjustice, and Jobs to Move America. Learn more and read the agenda.

School Bus Drawing Contest!

We held a Clean School Bus Drawing Contest to raise awareness about our Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign. For more than two years, NYLCVEF has been supporting the electrification of school buses in New York State. Currently, approximately 40,000 school buses in New York State run on diesel fuel, the exhaust from which has been shown to emit a toxic cocktail of chemicals that pollutes our air, harms public health, and contributes to climate change. When children ride the bus to school they are exposed to these fumes, which can exacerbate asthma symptoms. Our most vulnerable communities experience these impacts at much higher rates. That’s why NYLCVEF supports school bus electrification and investment in electric school buses.

Our Clean School Bus Drawing Contest invited school-aged kids to think about the last time they saw a school bus or consider what they think an electric school bus would look like, and draw it! We hope participants found it to be a great exercise to get creative and learn about the environmental and health benefits of electrifying school buses. 

This contest closed on June 10th, 2020. See below the winning drawings that are featured in our Clean Bus Guide, a toolkit of resources for community groups across the state to create their own campaigns for electric school buses. Congratulations to the winners!

Our Press Conference at the NYC DOE:

In 2018, former New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal spearheaded a pilot program to bring electric school buses to New York City by the start of the 2019 school year. However, the buses are still not on the road.

In September of 2019 we organized a press conference with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) and former Council Member Rafael Espinal to urge the NYC Department of Education (DOE) to clean its school bus fleet and show our support for the highly anticipated pilot program. We were joined by WE ACT, Transportation Alternatives, EarthJustice, and Citywide Council for District 75.

Letter to NYC DOE from City Council Chairs:

In February 2020, six City Council members and chairs of the relevant Council Committees (Health, Transportation, Environment, Finance, Contracts, and Education) sent a letter to the DOE asking them to engage in a discussion about Intro 455, a City Council bill that would electrify the city’s school bus fleet by 2040. 

The letter was signed by Council Member Dromm, Chair of the Finance Committee; Council Member Treyger, Chair of the Committee on Education; Council Member Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Contracts; Council Member Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection; Council Member Levine, Chair of the Committee on Health; and Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Committee on Transportation. See the full letter here

Thank you Letter to NYC Council Speaker Johnson

Along with our partners NYLPI and WE ACT, we wrote a thank you letter to NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, for including support for electric school buses in his 2020 State of the City address

Speaker Johnson listed achieving a 100% Zero Emissions Vehicle School Bus Fleet by 2040 as a priority under the policies he outlined in his address. We look forward to working with the Council to ensure legislation is passed to achieve this goal! See the full letter here- Thank You Letter to Speaker Johnson

Our Rally & Petition Delivery

This past June, NYLCV successfully delivered our petition to Governor Cuomo, asking him to fund electric school buses in school districts overburdened by poor air quality. Over the past six months, NYLCV mobilized community members, raised public awareness about the dangers of diesel school buses and emboldened our partners and allies to demand action from New York State. In total, we gathered nearly 6,000 signatures from New Yorkers concerned about the health and safety of New York’s school children.

At our rally, we spoke to the public about the environmental, health and economic impacts of diesel school buses and air pollution. We also highlighted the importance of the rare opportunity New York State currently has. The Volkswagen Settlement establishes a state mitigation fund which provides the DEC and Governor Cuomo with a chance to invest in clean transportation, protect our children and undo the disparate impact of climate change on the economically disadvantaged and communities of color. Together with our partners and community leaders, we continue to demand that the state use the $127 million it received from the Volkswagen Settlement to fund electric school buses in environmental justice communities. Watch our rally and petition delivery here.

Do you or your organization want to join our coalition?

Contact us today: Lisa Darrigo at 


Thank you to our valued partners.




Special thanks to the New York Community Trust for its generous support of this program.


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