Rural School Bus Pilot Project in Ukiah

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Parents can now breathe a little easier knowing their kids are doing the same going to and from school. In 2018, the Ukiah Unified School District in Mendocino County received funding to replace three older diesel school buses with three new zero-emission electric models.

Earlier this year, Lion Electric, the manufacturer of the electric buses, delivered Ukiah Unified School District’s first zero-emission electric school bus, with delivery of the remaining two expected in early 2019. In addition, the whole community benefits from reduced exposure to diesel exhaust pollution.

Recent studies show older school buses expose kids to higher concentrations of pollution while riding inside the bus, which is becoming an increasing concern to parents whose kids rely on these buses to get to school. Herlinda Calderon explains, “The saddest thing is when I realized that dirty school buses were worsening my daughter’s asthma, worsening her breathing problems.” In addition, Martha Favela would rather drive her three daughters to three different schools each morning than to have them ride in a diesel school bus. “Even just dropping them off at school, we pass the buses idling and breathe in the diesel fumes. Children go to school to learn, not to get sick from pollution.”

Traditionally, rural school districts lack funds to replace their old and polluting diesel school buses. Through a partnership with Senator Mike McGuire and the California Air Resources Board, the Rural School Bus Pilot Project provides funding to replace old school buses with vehicles running on cleaner fuel, and even zero-emission school buses.

“At Ukiah Unified School District, we are excited to add electric school buses to our fleet; it makes us very happy any time we can improve our impact on the environment. Our students and staff will enjoy a much quieter ride, and we are being better stewards of our environment. In addition to environmental benefits, electric school buses are less expensive to run and maintain. They do have a large up-front cost, but we know that over the long haul, they will pay for themselves and actually save our district money,” said Deb Kubin, Ukiah Unified School District Superintendent.

The Rural School Bus Pilot Project owes its success to the 2014–2015 Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Pilot projects, which featured electric transit and school buses and demonstrated that zero-emission electric buses are a reliable, cleaner mode of public transportation. Now the technology expands to the rural areas of the state. The Rural School Bus Pilot Project funded over 60 new school buses, which will cut approximately 10,000 MTCO2e.