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People await to board the AC Transit route 36 bus to the West Oakland BART station. The bus has the words "ZERO EMISSION" in green below the words fuel cell electric drive .

AC Transit accelerates toward zero emission goal

on December 12, 2023

Despite setbacks caused by COVID-19, AC Transit expects to meet its 2023 goals to convert 10% of its bus fleet to zero emission vehicles. 

The California Air Resources Board enacted a regulation in 2018 that requires all public transit agencies to transition from diesel fuel to 100% zero‑emission bus fleets by the end of 2040. AC Transit set an internal goal of converting 10% of its 630 buses to zero emission technology by the end of this year, said spokesperson Robert Lyles. 

“Barring any additional and unforeseen obstacles, AC Transit is confident in our ability to meet our target of 10 percent transition by the close of the year,” Lyles said in an email.

Transit agencies play a crucial role in reducing emissions.

“It’s one of the most cost-effective ways that we can reduce emissions from the transportation sector, by encouraging people to ride transit, so right off the bat transit agencies just by definition of what they do are really critical elements to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Ethan Elkind, director of the Climate Program at the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at UC Berkeley, wrote in an email. 

The services also are important, as the only transportation option for those who don’t drive or can’t afford a car, he added. 

Aditya Bhumbla, a transit advocate in San Francisco, said getting people to use public transit is the best way to reduce transport emissions. In terms of sustainability, Bhumbla said trolley buses, as seen in San Francisco, are the gold standard, though they are expensive because of the required wiring. 

“I’m glad that [AC Transit] is moving off diesel,” Bhumbla said.

This summer, the Federal Transit Administration awarded AC Transit a $25.5 million Bus and Low-and No-Emission Grant. It will help cover the $18 million design and construction of the  Zero Emission Bus University, which will provide a controlled environment for AC Transit employees to learn how to handle operational situations, emergency scenarios and vehicle maintenance. 

Elkind explained the significance of AC Transit’s program in the global transportation market. 

“It’s not just about creating a local air quality benefit and reducing our carbon footprint,” he said.  “It’s also about agencies like AC Transit using their purchasing power to expand a market that ultimately benefits the whole world by bringing down the cost of these large electrics.” 

(Top photo of an AC Transit bus, by Veronique Eshaya)

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