EPA, bus buddies help Bay Shore schools charge ahead

Rollout: Indistinguishable on the outside from traditional gas-guzzlers, four new 100 percent electric school buses are now servicing students in the Bay Shore Union Free School District.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Long Island’s “first fully electric production line” from iconic school-bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corp. is now rolling through Bay Shore.

The Bay Shore Union Free School District has added four 100 percent electric buses to its mix, featuring electric drive trains with 120-mile-per-charge range. The clean-gen carriers come straight from the Blue Bird production line – no hybrids, retrofits or test models, according to a joint statement from the school district and Bay Shore-based bus operator Suffolk Transportation Service, but a brand-new, zero-emission fleet.

A $695,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant, secured for the district by Suffolk Transportation Service and Mineola-based McBride Consulting & Business Development Group, covered about 45 percent of the project costs, including the four buses and charging-station infrastructure upgrades. Suffolk Transportation Service paid the rest of the $1.5 million tab, according to the statement.

Joseph Bond: Teaching moment.

All told, Georgia-based Blue Bird has shipped about 100 all-electric buses this school year to districts in California, Colorado and New Jersey. The first four to hit Island streets are a big deal for the Bay Shore district, which buses some 6,600 students to and fro every school day and believes “it’s imperative for us to model good citizenship to our young residents,” Superintendent of Schools Joseph Bond said this week.

“And part of that means being good environmental stewards,” Bond added. “The addition of these four electric buses will greatly reduce the impact of transporting our students to and from school, and will continue Bay Shore’s mission to reduce our overall carbon footprint.”

And it does so “at no additional cost to taxpayers,” the superintendent noted, calling out the EPA for “providing the funding to make it possible” and Suffolk Transportation Service “for being such great partners.”

The bus company – which keeps 1,400 school buses, 143 paratransit buses and 80 public-transit buses going across Long Island – is no stranger to innovation, particularly electric vehicles. Earlier this year, Suffolk Transportation Service partnered with Plainview-based consultant Edgewise Energy on a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority proposal that would see specially equipped electric school buses both replace gas-guzzlers during the school year and feed low-cost electricity back into the regional grid during the summer.

Helping to bring the four zero-emission buses to Bay Shore streets is a definite step in that pro-environment direction, according to Suffolk Transportation Service President John Corrado.

“The school bus of the future is here today,” Corrado said in a statement. “These fully electric buses are clean, efficient and provide a smooth, quiet ride.

“A typical bus consumes 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel each school year,” the president added. “So just through this purchase, the Bay Shore School District is reducing consumption of fossil fuel by nearly 6,000 gallons and lowering its carbon footprint.”