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After months of requests and pressure from environmental and equity groups, Minnesota’s Metro Transit announced a plan Monday to transition the entire Twin Cities bus fleet to electric buses, as a way of combating pollution and cutting carbon emissions. The plan will begin with the purchase of fifty electric buses over the next three years, with a goal to purchase no more diesel vehicles starting in 2022.

Environmental and equity groups hailed the decision as a victory in their efforts to prevent damage to our climate. The Coalition for Clean Transportation (CCT), a team of Minnesota environmental and social justice groups, strongly supports the target as an important step to reduce pollution and climate change.


Members of the coalition, along with the Twin Cities Transit Riders Union, have canvassed transit riders for the past several months to learn what they want from their transit system.  Improving health by reducing pollution is a critical concern. “I have COPD, which is a chronic lung condition,” said regular bus rider Maureen Benson, who MN350 spoke to during a canvass. “I breathe in all the pollution from the bus every day.” Another rider, Paris Mullins, echoed this concern: “My daughter has asthma and when she's around pollution her lungs get closed in… she always wears a scarf to cover her mouth."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has reported air pollution creates 2000 premature deaths a year. The costs of air pollution in the Twin Cities fall disproportionately on low income communities and communities of color. Rates of asthma-related ER visits due to air pollution are five times higher in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and four times higher in neighborhoods in which the majority of residents are people of color.


The purchase of such a large number of electric buses is also an important step to fighting climate change and help local cities to meet their greenhouse gas emission goals. Transportation has been a growing contributor to carbon emissions for years. New zero-emission vehicles will allow for travel powered by locally made renewable energy, a priority for coalition members. “Renewable energy and transit are critical pieces to transitioning Minnesota to a livable environment free from fossil fuel emissions, where everyone can travel without the burden of pollution safely and economically,” said Janiece Watts of Fresh Energy. “Policies make this transition possible, but only with vision, leadership and inclusion of all impacted by this policy and the plans to follow.”

Local jobs advocates were also on hand to applaud Metro Transit’s bold plan. Leaders from the Communications Workers of America were on hand to celebrate the decision, which could benefit union employer New Flyer and their production plants in St. Cloud and Crookston. “This will help bring good manufacturing jobs into Northern Minnesota,” said CWA Local 7304 Vice President Renee Brand.

Metro Transit and Xcel Energy have already started work on moving Metro Transit to 100% renewable energy for all of its operations by 2040. Powering buses through renewable energy means that they emit no greenhouse gases during their service lifetime. The first use of electric buses will be along the new C Line service, which will provide service between downtown Minneapolis and and Brooklyn Center in 2019.  

Nonprofits praise city for pollution-fighting change


For Immediate Release

From: Coalition for Clean Transportation

Contact: Noa Shavit-Lonstein, 651-233-4210 / noa@mn350.org


The Coalition for Clean Transportation applauds Duluth Transit Authority for purchasing seven zero-emission transit buses, to be put into commission today.


The new buses, from American manufacturer Proterra, will have no tailpipe emissions, improving air quality in Duluth for all residents. They will also have a lower carbon output than traditional buses, and can be charged primarily on local wind energy overnight. Adding these seven electric vehicles to a 77-vehicle fleet represents a major step towards a clean vehicle future for Duluth Transit.


"It’s exciting to have a forward-looking Transit Authority taking action to reduce emissions,” said Kelsey Jones-Casey, of Duluth, the Statewide Climate Justice Program Manager with TakeAction Minnesota. “Duluthians want bold solutions for a clean future. These buses take us one step closer to Duluth’s commitment to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050."


The city’s buses were purchased with the help of several relevant grants, including $6.3 million from the Federal Transit Administration, and $1.1 million from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. These grants will help the city save substantially on vehicle repair and fuel costs over the life of the buses. The buses will also allow manufacturers to prove the capability of battery-powered vehicles in cold weather climates.


By promoting zero-emission vehicles, Duluth is taking its first steps towards cutting down pollution that causes health problems and climate damage. Instead, its buses can be powered by electricity, including Minnesota-made renewable power.


The Coalition for Clean Transportation, an alliance of Minnesota nonprofits working to promote a just transition to zero-emission vehicles across the state. Members have been working with Metro Transit in the Twin Cities region for a similar charge forward on bus electrification.

Decision signals shift towards health- and climate-friendly alternatives


The Coalition for Clean Transportation applauds Metro Transit’s decision not to invest in new diesel buses in advance of a shift to zero-emission buses powered by electricity. This is an important early step in transitioning to a zero-emission bus system, with reduced carbon pollution, no tailpipe emissions, and lower long-term operational costs.


This commendation comes after Metro Transit, on September 25th, canceled its planned procurement of 131 diesel and hybrid buses “due to a major shift in the type of propulsion technology required in the Metro Transit Fleet Plan.” Metro Transit is working on an Electrification Plan to build off the battery electric buses coming to the C Line, and more broadly transition to clean, zero emission technology. The Coalition for Clean Transportation has organized and advocated for this change for several months.


Poor air quality contributes to 2,000 premature deaths in the Twin Cities every year. Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions, meaning cleaner air in our communities. "Electrifying our transportation sector along with the accelerated transition to clean, renewable energy

will bring important public health benefits and protect our climate," said Sierra Club Minnesota Director Margaret Levin.


The costs of air pollution in the Twin Cities fall disproportionately on low income communities and communities of color. Rates of asthma-related ER visits due to air pollution are 5 times higher in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and 4 times higher in neighborhoods in which the majority of residents are people of color. “With clean transportation options, we can make sure all Minnesotans, no matter where they live or how much money they make, can count on clean air and a stable climate for generations to come. Metro Transit is taking a major step in that direction,” said Noa Shavit-Lonstein, an organizer at MN350.


“Electric buses have a lower total cost of ownership over the life of the bus, thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and maintenance cost savings,” said Fresh Energy Executive Director Michael Noble. “Electric buses save taxpayers money, even before you consider the public health and environmental benefits.”


Support for zero emissions buses was, by an extremely large margin, the most common public comment on the Metropolitan Council’s update to the 2040 Transportation Policy Plan. This was thanks to sustained public turnout by the Coalition and an allied group, the Twin Cities Transit Riders Union. “We're pleased to hear that the Metropolitan Council heard and listened to riders,” said Amity Foster, one of the union's organizers.


The Coalition for Clean Transportation is a collaboration of Minnesota environmental and social justice groups working for a better future in our transportation system. Membership includes MN350, Fresh Energy, the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Take Action MN, and ISAIAH. More information about the coalition is available at https://www.cctmn.org.