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Diesel to electric: Local officials push for funds to change school buses

Diesel to electric: Local officials push for funds to change school buses
Posted at 5:55 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 20:55:47-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — City officials spoke today about the lasting impact that our school buses have on students’ health. They're pushing for state representatives to do something about it. According to the American Lung Association, Tucson’s air quality is among the worst in the nation.

“Arizona and Tucson rank particularly poorly when it comes to poor air quality,” said Dr. Lynn Gerald, University of Arizona Public Health Professor.

The association says there are 17,357 children, and 80,436 adults in Pima County with asthma. A major reason for this is outdated transportation.

“Being able to change our transit systems into electric, our school buses into electric to stop using fossil fuels, is as important to the environment as it is to public health,” said Mayor Regina Romero.

Tucson Unified School District has 300 buses, all of them are powered by diesel gas.

“The average age of our buses are 10 years or more, we have some buses in our fleet that are 20 years or more," said Dr. Gabriel Trujillo, TUSD superintendent. "And what we know with these buses, is that the emissions get worse with time.”

TUSD bus drivers travel an average of a million miles every school year. That results in a lot of pollution, which has a disproportionate impact on certain populations.

“The impact of air pollution from school buses is especially profound in black and hispanic communities, and children from low income communities who more likely depend on school buses to get to school,” Mayor Romero said.

City officials say they need the infrastructure to charge the buses. They're asking state representatives to propose the necessary funding through the Build Back Better Act. TUSD will need around $15 million to start transitioning its buses.

“Our district alone that carbon footprint would be so much less if we had the infrastructure to have electric buses,” said Adelita Grijalva, County Supervisor for District 5.

If state officials submit a proposal for this infrastructure funding, the county could start to see changes by September of next year.