Friday, September 30, 2016

Campus Electric Bus Demo: Time for University of South Florida to Really GO GREEN!

Dylan Thomas and Lauren Jones are excited about USF
officials' response to their Green Bull Runner Campaign. 
When the University of South Florida Bulls take the field, fans yell "Go Green." But going green at USF means more than just pulling for a football team clad in green and gold. America's 9th largest university is one of the few that owns and operates its own transit bus fleet to move students around its Tampa campus. The Bull Runner fleet is now made up of over 40 old diesel buses that are all ready to be replaced.

USF student Lauren Jones gives a thumbs up as campus
transit officials inspect a BYD zero emission electric bus. 
On September 28th USF's Parking & Transportation Services hosted a demonstration by BYD, the global leader in manufacturing electric buses, as well as China's top EV company. USF transit officials, drivers and maintenance staff kicked the tires and took a ride around campus, marveling at the smooth, quiet ride and how easily the electric bus maneuvered through the tightest sections of campus routes. This was USF's 2nd onsite demo of an electric bus in the past 6 months, following last April's presentation by Proterra at the Center for Urban Transportation Research on campus.

When Sierra Club's Florida Healthy Air Campaign met with student environmental leaders last year, they quickly identified USF's heavily polluting diesel buses as a problem. Since then, USF Green Bull Runner Campaign leaders Lauren Jones and Dylan Thomas have been working hard to convince USF that electric buses are an immediate and lasting way to go green while improving air quality in Florida's smoggiest county.

Sierra Club FL Healthy Air team members join USF
Green Bull Runner Campaign leaders at BYD demo.  
USF would reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 73%, or 1,604 tons of GHG emissions, if it chose to completely transition its fleet to electric buses. Considering current sources of electricity, electric buses' net carbon emissions are just 22% of diesel buses, and only 23% of supposedly "clean" compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. While new diesel and CNG buses will emit just as much carbon in 2031 as they do today, zero emission electric buses will steadily get cleaner throughout the 15 year life of a bus as utilities continue to add more renewable energy to their portfolios.

For years, USF has been known for environmental innovation and forward thinking. From the Patel Center for Global Sustainability to the new solar panels on top of the Marshall Student Center, innovation has been at the core of faculty and student involvement. USF always ranks high on Sierra Club's annual Cool Schools list, but in the past 2 years it's fallen out of our Top Ten, with transportation an area noted for improvement. Moving forward now to replace its aging diesel buses with electric will be one more way for USF to live up to its motto and truly Go Green.

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club National Beyond Oil / Florida Healthy Air Campaign Lead Organizer
1990 Central Avenue    St. Petersburg, FL 33712
office: 727-824-8813, ext. 303      cell: 813-841-3601

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