As of the beginning of fall 2021, Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, has begun utilizing electric school buses in lieu of more traditional options.
BUSD’s transportation manager Sheila Collier originally drafted the electric school bus proposal, according to John Calise, executive director of the BUSD Facilities Department. A grant was later approved by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, allowing for the electric buses to be implemented.
Calise noted that some reimbursement has already been received for the costs initially fronted by the facilities department.
“The funding consists of more than $1.4 million from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and $1.7 million from the Hybrid Voucher Incentive Program for a total of $3,199,532, according to Transportation Manager Sheila Collier,” the BUSD website reads.
According to the website, the electric buses are meant to replace the older diesel buses that BUSD previously used. They will be put in service alongside eight, small gasoline-powered buses.
Efforts to acquire an eco-friendly bus system spanned several months. Since BUSD first began the conversation with PG&E and local architects regarding the matter, a total of 20 months had passed. Calise noted that the discussion surrounding electric buses predates his introduction to the facilities department in 2018.
“It’s really helping reduce our carbon footprint and improving the air quality,” Calise said. “It’s about being more environmentally friendly.”
Berkeley isn’t the first community to begin the move toward electric school buses. According to the World Resources Institute website, there are several other counties in California that have integrated electric buses into their transportation systems. These counties include, but are not limited to, Twin Rivers Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District and Fontana Unified School District.
The transition to electric school buses is part of BUSD’s sustainability plans. Calise said a driving force for the move toward electric school buses is aligning BUSD’s goals with community values.
According to Environment America, the advantages of electric bus use range from air quality improvement and financial benefits to lower greenhouse gas emissions and societal benefits.
“BUSD has a tremendous commitment to sustainability,” Calise said. “I’d like to think that we are a leader in sustainability. We are very progressive and we all have a responsibility to leave the earth better than we found it.”