‘Green New Wheel’ plan from Schumer aims to fund zero emission buses nationwide

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Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer at the Tuskegee Airmen Bus Depot in Harlem on May 4, 2021.
Photo by Mark Hallum

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer altered a catchy slogan for his new plan to fund the conversion of buses nationwide to zero emissions, borrowing from fellow Democrat, Queens/Bronx Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Clean Transit for America — or the “Green New Wheel,” as Schumer dubbed it Tuesday — is the next topic on the agenda in Washington for the Senate Majority Leader. He announced the plan at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Tuskegee Airmen Bus Depot in Harlem directing some of his comments toward the transit agency who he believes has not converted fast enough.

“In New York City, we have about 6,000 buses, a very tiny percent are either electric or another form of zero emissions and we’re here to do something about it,” Schumer said. “Kids, particularly kids in the inner city areas, get a lot of asthma. We have to stop. So, we all deserve public health, but they also make our whole planet sick because of the pollutants and carbon pushed into the atmosphere, global warming is closer and closer upon. It’s upon us right now, it’s getting worse and worse and if you think COVID was bad, wait 10 years if you do nothing about climate change every year.”

Schumer’s $73 billion transit plan would provide the money to make that feasible to ditch to 70,000 transit buses in across the country of which only 2% are zero emissions, according to Schumer.

Built into the MTA’s 2020-2024 Capital Program is $1.1 billion for 500 zero emissions buses and charging infrastructure at 8 of the city’s 28 depots that the agency launched prior to the pandemic which marked a financial, and existential, setback. According to MTA Bus Company President Craig Cipriano, they have acquired 25 electric buses with 45 more requested.

“We share Senator Schumer’s vision for a zero-emission bus fleet and in 2018, made a major commitment to go all-electric by 2040. With state and federal support and resources, we expect that these efforts are about to take off exponentially. The MTA is working with the industry on zero emission technologies and charging infrastructure to make sure it can support this ambitious goal,” Cipriano said. “Already, we have 25 electric buses and have recently put out a request to purchase 45 more. To support these buses, we are immediately building charging infrastructure at one depot in every borough of NYC.”

The MTA has a self-imposed goal of reaching zero emissions from their bus fleet of about 5,700 by 2040.

While President Joe Biden has already committed about $25 billion to Schumer’s plan, according to the majority leader, there is a chance more funds could go into converting not only to electric, but hydrogen powered transit.