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LA public bus

Los Angeles became the first major U.S. city to commit to fully transitioning its public buses  to electric. (Photo: Jonathan Riley/Flickr/cc)

It's Electric: LA First Major US City to Pledge Full Bus Fleet Conversion

As Trump administration rolls back environmental regulations, Los Angeles sets example for transitioning public transportation

Jessica Corbett

Los Angeles became the first major U.S. city to commit to fully transitioning its public buses to electric on Thursday, when the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted to transition its fleet of more than 2,200 buses by 2030.

"This decision also signals to transit agencies around the country that, even as the administration in D.C. puts the brakes on progress fighting climate change, Los Angeles area leaders are accelerating to a clean energy future."
—Los Angeles County Electric Bus Coalition

The decision was celebrated by environmentalists with Los Angeles County Electric Bus Coalition, which includes Earthjustice, Food & Water Watch – California, SoCal Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientist, among others. The coalition said in a statement:

LA Metro's decision to switch from fossil fuel, gas-powered buses to 100% clean, electric buses will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while cutting the air pollution that is poisoning our communities, and improve the quality of life for the 9.6 million people who live, work, play and breathe in this region.

This decision also signals to transit agencies around the country that, even as the administration in D.C. puts the brakes on progress fighting climate change, Los Angeles area leaders are accelerating to a clean energy future.

"As the federal government moves backward, here in Los Angeles, we are moving forward," said Los Angeles city councilman and Metro director Mike Bonin. The Los Angeles County MTA has the second-most bus riders in the country, and is the third largest public transportation system by ridership. The nation's other major public transit hubs, New York City and Chicago, are both in the process of testing fleets of electric buses.

While the Trump administration busies itself with rolling back environmental regulations, the LA public bus transition could serve as a model for other major cities. Writers at TechCrunch predict that within the next few years, electrifying urban transit will become increasingly popular for both environmental and financial reasons:

By 2020, we expect a majority of transit buses sold in the U.S. to be electric, and we expect the availability of highly efficient, low cost, zero emissions, and quiet electric buses to lead to a renaissance of urban transit in the United States.

China mandated the integration of electric buses in late 2015, and now leads the world with more than 100,000 electric buses on its roads. European cities such as London are already in the process of similar transitions, and many more are making plans. Eurotransport Magazine reported in January that at least 19 public transport authorities in 25 European cities have developed electric bus plans for 2020, with another 13 public transport authorities in 18 European cities with plans for 2025.

The trending shift to electric isn't limited to public transit, though. July has seen automakers and countries alike commit to transitioning passenger vehicles to electric. Earlier this month, Volvo announced all of its new cars sold after 2019 will be partially or fully battery-powered. "It is the first major manufacturer to make such a bold move," the Guardian reported.

Volvo's announcement was followed by decisions by France and Britain to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. The French government said its ban is part of an ongoing effort to meet its goals tied to the Paris Climate Agreement, while the Brits introduced their ban as part of a larger clean air plan. Among the most ambitious though, is Norway, which announced in June that it will ban the sale of new fuel cars by 2025.

Meanwhile, a front group for the Koch brothers—the modern-day oil barons who substantially invest in right-wing candidates and think tanks—has launched a series of misleading attack ads that target electric vehicles. As ThinkProgress reported:

Last month, Fueling U.S. Forward put out a heart-wrenching video about how batteries use cobalt mined by children. This week, they put out another video, claiming that taxpayers are subsidizing rich white men (yes, this is an ad from the Koch brothers) to buy Teslas.

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