San Francisco Seeks 100% Electric Bus Fleet by 2035
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SF Muni) Board of Directors passed a resolution to begin procuring zero emission battery buses to replace electric hybrid vehicles by 2025, with a goal of achieving a 100 percent electric bus fleet by 2035. The resolution allows SF Muni to catch up to other Californian transit agencies from Los Angeles to Stockton that have already started switching their bus fleets to zero-emissions electric buses.
The resolution comes after a coalition of community, environmental and labor groups delivered a joint letter to SF Muni decision-makers last month, urging them to go electric.
"Today, I am a proud San Franciscan. Despite our city's history of being on the vanguard of environmental protection and clean technology, our transit system had fallen behind, relying on dirty diesel buses for too long. Along with our labor, community, and environmental partners, Earthjustice's Right to Zero campaign strongly supports the transition of our SF Muni bus fleet to zero emission, battery-electric buses," said Paul Cort, staff attorney at Earthjustice, who delivered the letter to SF Muni in April.
"It's terrific that SFMTA is taking concrete steps to get battery-powered zero emissions buses on the ground in San Francisco," said Nick Josefowitz, who represents San Francisco at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "Upgrading to clean buses is good news for our air quality, reduces our carbon footprint and will deliver far more reliable Muni bus service."
Seven other Californian transit agencies—representing almost one-third of all public buses in California—have already committed to making a full transition to zero-emission buses in the past year. Back in its 2004 "Clean Air Plan—Zero Emissions 2020," SF Muni itself boldly announced its visionary goal "to be the first major transit agency in the world to operate a 100 percent zero-emission fleet by the year 2020." The resolution passed by SF Muni finally sets that plan in motion, prompting the agency to begin procurement of electric buses.
A worker at BYD's California electric bus factoryBYD
"While this is a good start, SFMTA must move faster, ensure its planned 2023 procurement is 100% electric, and plan for the infrastructure to make that happen," said Alex Lantsberg, Director of Research and Advocacy for the San Francisco Electrical Construction Industry. "As of September of 2017, 107 battery-electric and fuel cell buses were already driving people to work, school and home in over 20 transit fleets across California, with thousands of Californian workers manufacturing them. It is no longer an excuse to say this technology isn't ready—because people are already building and benefiting from electric buses throughout our state."
The commitment to a zero-emissions fleet comes after SF Muni committed last month to testing nine battery electric buses. Those first electric buses are expected to hit the streets in fall 2018. The pilot program will evaluate how electric buses perform on crowded and hilly routes, and allow staff to evaluate the facility upgrades needed to support an all-electric fleet. The Bay Area's own electric bus manufacturer Proterra recently took one of their buses on a record 1,100-mile trip on a single charge and on a trip along Utah's steepest mountain highways.
Workers build an electric bus on Proterra's California assemblylineProterra
"SF Muni is going to be pleasantly surprised by how well these electric buses will perform in San Francisco's steep and hilly neighborhoods," said Jimmy O'Dea, senior vehicles analyst with Union of Concerned Scientists. "Electrifying buses is a big step forward in the local and global fight against the worst impacts of climate change. SF Muni's commitment to battery electric buses means that by 2035 buses on San Francisco's streets will have 40 percent lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than the diesel buses currently on the road."
SF Muni's current bus fleet consists of mostly diesel and diesel-electric hybrid buses. The health impacts of diesel particulate matter are well-known. In 1998, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) identified diesel particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant based on published evidence of a relationship between diesel exhaust exposure and lung cancer and other adverse health effects.
"There's no reason we should be running dirty, polluting buses in our communities when we have better, cleaner options," said Emily Rusch, executive director of CALPIRG. "Whether commuters are on the bus or boarding the bus, they're exposed to toxic air in high concentrations, while simultaneously, diesel contributes to global warming. We have the technology to avoid this, so why wouldn't we?"
The resolution also comes as CARB is developing strategies to transition all Californian transit agencies to zero-emissions vehicles to meet air quality, climate and public health protection goals. The long-term vision of CARB's Innovation Clean Transit (ICT) effort is to achieve a zero-emission transit system across California by 2040—five years after SF Muni's 100 percent electrification goal.
"CARB's Innovative Clean Transit rule should be a huge signal to every transit agency in the state that our future is zero-emissions electric vehicles—not just because battery electric is the best option for our climate, but because it is best for our communities," said Eddie Ahn, executive director of Brightline Defense. "Californian communities—especially those most impacted by poor air quality—are demanding absolutely zero-emissions transit powered by clean energy. Because anything more than zero emissions means more air pollution for our families."
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By Bob Jacobs
Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.
Hanako, an Asian elephant kept at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo; and Kiska, an orca that lives at Marineland Canada. One image depicts Kiska's damaged teeth. Elephants in Japan (left image), Ontario Captive Animal Watch (right image), CC BY-ND
Affecting Health and Altering Behavior<p>It is easy to observe the overall health and psychological consequences of life in captivity for these animals. Many captive elephants suffer from arthritis, obesity or skin problems. Both <a href="https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2620.1826-36" target="_blank">elephants</a> and orcas often have severe dental problems. Captive orcas are plagued by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank">pneumonia, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses and infections</a>.</p><p>Many animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010" target="_blank">try to cope</a> with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors. Some develop "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stereotypies</a>," which are repetitive, purposeless habits such as constantly bobbing their heads, swaying incessantly or chewing on the bars of their cages. Others, especially big cats, pace their enclosures. Elephants rub or break their tusks.</p>
Changing Brain Structure<p>Neuroscientific research indicates that living in an impoverished, stressful captive environment <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically damages the brain</a>. These changes have been documented in many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.903270108" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">species</a>, including rodents, rabbits, cats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humans</a>.</p><p>Although researchers have directly studied some animal brains, most of what we know comes from observing animal behavior, analyzing stress hormone levels in the blood and applying knowledge gained from a half-century of neuroscience research. Laboratory research also suggests that mammals in a zoo or aquarium have compromised brain function.</p>
This illustration shows differences in the brain's cerebral cortex in animals held in impoverished (captive) and enriched (natural) environments. Impoverishment results in thinning of the cortex, a decreased blood supply, less support for neurons and decreased connectivity among neurons. Arnold B. Scheibel, CC BY-ND<p>Subsisting in confined, barren quarters that lack intellectual stimulation or appropriate social contact seems to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652001000200006" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">thin the cerebral cortex</a> – the part of the brain involved in voluntary movement and higher cognitive function, including memory, planning and decision-making.</p><p>There are other consequences. Capillaries shrink, depriving the brain of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Neurons become smaller, and their dendrites – the branches that form connections with other neurons – become less complex, impairing communication within the brain. As a result, the cortical neurons in captive animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.901230110" target="_blank">process information less efficiently</a> than those living in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.420020208" target="_blank">enriched, more natural environments</a>.</p>
An actual cortical neuron in a wild African elephant living in its natural habitat compared with a hypothesized cortical neuron from a captive elephant. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Brain health is also affected by living in small quarters that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-160040" target="_blank">don't allow for needed exercise</a>. Physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which requires large amounts of oxygen. Exercise increases the production of new connections and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2622" target="_blank">enhances cognitive abilities</a>.</p><p>In their native habits these animals must move to survive, covering great distances to forage or find a mate. Elephants typically travel anywhere from <a href="https://www.elephantsforafrica.org/elephant-facts/#:%7E:text=How%20far%20do%20elephants%20walk,km%20on%20a%20daily%20basis." target="_blank">15 to 120 miles per day</a>. In a zoo, they average <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150331" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">three miles daily</a>, often walking back and forth in small enclosures. One free orca studied in Canada swam <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 156 miles a day</a>; meanwhile, an average orca tank is about 10,000 times smaller than its <a href="https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/projects/killer-whales/using-dtags-study-acoustics-and-behavior-southern" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">natural home range</a>.</p>
Disrupting Brain Chemistry and Killing Cells<p>Living in enclosures that restrict or prevent normal behavior creates chronic frustration and boredom. In the wild, an animal's stress-response system helps it escape from danger. But captivity traps animals with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215502109" target="_blank">almost no control</a> over their environment.</p><p>These situations foster <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000033" target="_blank">learned helplessness</a>, negatively impacting the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hippocampus</a>, which handles memory functions, and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amygdala</a>, which processes emotions. Prolonged stress <a href="https://doi.org/10.3109/10253899609001092" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevates stress hormones</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.10-09-02897.1990" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">damages or even kills neurons</a> in both brain regions. It also disrupts the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.021" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">delicate balance of serotonin</a>, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood, among other functions.</p><p>In humans, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deprivation</a> can trigger <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychiatric issues</a>, including depression, anxiety, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mood disorders</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858409333072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">post-traumatic stress disorder</a>. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-010-0288-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephants</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">orcas</a> and other animals with large brains are likely to react in similar ways to life in a severely stressful environment.</p>
Damaged Wiring<p>Captivity can damage the brain's complex circuitry, including the basal ganglia. This group of neurons communicates with the cerebral cortex along two networks: a direct pathway that enhances movement and behavior, and an indirect pathway that inhibits them.</p><p>The repetitive, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.057" target="_blank">stereotypic behaviors</a> that many animals adopt in captivity are caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.02.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">serotonin</a>. This impairs the indirect pathway's ability to modulate movement, a condition documented in species from chickens, cows, sheep and horses to primates and big cats.</p>
The cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are physically altered by captivity, along with brain circuitry that involves the basal ganglia. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Evolution has constructed animal brains to be exquisitely responsive to their environment. Those reactions can affect neural function by <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/311787/behave-by-robert-m-sapolsky/" target="_blank">turning different genes on or off</a>. Living in inappropriate or abusive circumstance alters biochemical processes: It disrupts the synthesis of proteins that build connections between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that facilitate communication among them.</p><p>There is strong evidence that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0577-11.2011" target="_blank">enrichment</a>, social contact and appropriate space in more natural habitats are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1090.2003.tb02071.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">necessary</a> for long-lived animals with large brains such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152490" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elephants</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cetaceans</a>. Better conditions <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543669/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce disturbing sterotypical behaviors</a>, improve connections in the brain, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2009.193" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trigger neurochemical changes</a> that enhance learning and memory.</p>