Los Angeles Accelerates Its Transition to Zero-Emission Buses

Los Angeles is known for many things, the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, sunny weather all year round, and amazing beaches. But Los Angeles is also notorious for heavy traffic and the resulting smog. And, unfortunately, our smog is getting worse: the LA region has had 145 dirty air days so far this year -- the most since 2004.   

Today, the Los Angeles City Council passed a motion to clean up this pollution, setting a goal of transitioning Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) bus fleet to 100% zero emission buses by 2030. Though Metro (which committed to transitioning to all-electric buses by 2030) operates most of the buses in the city of L.A., LADOT, which operates DASH, Commuter Express, and City Ride service, is the third-largest transit agency in the nation to go electric.

The motion itself is a master example in how to realize the full benefits of the transition away from fossil fuels. It is a framework for good jobs, equitable access to clean technology, and cleaner energy. It can and should be replicated elsewhere as we make sure that the transition to 100% clean energy benefits 100% of our communities. This decision also signals to transit agencies around the state and country that, even as the administration in D.C. pumps the brakes on progress fighting climate change, Los Angeles area leaders are accelerating to a clean energy future. In LA County alone now, 80% of the buses are now committed to be electric by 2030. Statewide, the number is a still impressive 33%.

As we think about this stunning, rapid transition to electric buses, it’s worth noting the effect we can have when movements with shared values come together, as labor and environmentalists team up. It’s a powerful combo when we lock arms and share values. As the LA County Electric Bus Coalition’s mantra goes "we win when the buses are electric, the jobs are union, the electricity is clean, and the buses roll out in environmental justice communities first." Those are the goals, and the coalition is uncompromising in seeing those goals through to the end.

Finally, in both the LA DOT and LA Metro transitions, councilmember and LA Metro board member Mike Bonin was instrumental. As I pointed out at the top, Los Angeles is plagued by traffic and smog. It is refreshing to have such a fierce and effective advocate for climate friendly solutions that alleviate traffic and help people get around town faster without the pollution our car culture creates.


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