OUT WITH THE OLD

The 2006-07 California budget will provide $25 million to the state's Air Resource Board (ARB) for its Lower-Emission School Bus Program. The ARB will help school systems replace pre-1977 model-year public school buses with new, lower-emitting buses meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.

The ARB estimates that about 200 school buses built prior to 1977 still are being used by school systems in California — one in the Mojave Unified School District is a 1951 vintage. The 2006-07 allocation would enable the ARB to replace nearly all of the pre-1977 buses.

In addition, the ARB says that a statewide bond proposal on the November ballot would provide $200 million for new school bus purchases and retrofits for eligible existing diesel school buses. The bond funds would enable the ARB to target replacement of school buses built prior to 1987.

CLEANER BUSES

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $478,000 to several school systems in New York State so they can install pollution-reducing equipment on more than 400 school buses. The grant is part of the EPA's Clean School Bus USA program.

The money will enable the schools to install diesel oxidation catalysts, which are similar to catalytic converters found in gasoline-powered cars. The devices will reduce several types of tailpipe emissions: fine particles by at least 20 percent, hydrocarbons by at least 50 percent and carbon monoxide by at least 30 percent.

The school systems sharing the grant include Greece Central, Fairport Central, Livonia Central, Sachem Central and Ulster County Board of Cooperative Education Services.

SEEKING HYBRIDS

Environmentally conscious drivers can choose hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius or the Honda Insight. But until now, school bus operators seeking such vehicles have been left by the side of the road.

This summer, a non-profit organization advocating the development of hybrid school buses announced that several school systems and private bus operators across the nation are in line to receive buses that are powered by electricity and diesel fuel. Advanced Energy, based in Raleigh, N.C., says a consortium of buyers — school systems, government agencies and bus operators — has selected IC Corporation to provide 19 hybrid buses.

The buses are expected to increase fuel efficiency by as much as 40 percent. Funding to support the initiative has come from North Carolina's electric utilities and the State Energy Office in North Carolina.

Those scheduled to receive the vehicles include the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (2); South Carolina Department of Education (2); State of New York (2); Florida Department of Education (2); Napa Valley (Calif.) Unified School District (1); Lake Chelan (Wash.) School District (1); City of Seattle (1); Little Rock (Ark.) School District (1); Sigourney (Iowa) Community School District (1); Nevada (Iowa) Community Schools (1); Killeen (Texas) Independent School District (1); Austin (Texas) Independent School District (1); Fairfax County, Va. (1); Durham School Services, Everett, Wash. (1); and Jennings Transportation, Nazareth, Pa. (1).

Miles of aisles

Some school bus facts:
Total fleet 505,000 buses
Children transported 25.4 million
Yearly fleet mileage 5.8 billion miles
Yearly individual bus mileage 11,400 miles
Buses using diesel 94%
Buses using gasoline 5%
Buses using alternative fuel 1%
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, “School Bus Pollution Report Card 2006”