School buses are getting cleaner in Washington state after this year’s legislative session.

Lawmakers in Olympia passed House Bill 1368, which will fund the purchase of zero emission school buses.

Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, said the program is getting off the ground quickly.

“As we work towards that long-term goal of all new school buses being zero emission, we’re kick-starting this year with $40 million in grants to school districts in overburdened communities,” Senn explained.

Going forward, Senn noted school districts will have to purchase zero-emission vehicles once the total cost of ownership is equal to or lower than the cost of diesel vehicles. The state is leveraging the state’s Climate Commitment Act resources to fund the transition of its 10,000 school buses.

Devin Denney, director of transportation for Highline Public Schools in King County, which already has electric school buses in its fleet, said he has driven the electric buses and talked about some of their benefits from a driver’s perspective.

“You’re not competing against that engine noise, the kids aren’t competing against the engine noise,” Denney observed. “It’s a much quieter bus all the way around. The major advantage, of course, is that there’s no tailpipe emissions with an electric bus, so our kids’ health is better protected.”

Senn emphasized health studies have shown there are negative health effects from diesel vehicles for kids, and it is easy to understand why.

“If you think about kids waiting to get on their bus in front of an elementary school and you have this line of buses idling, letting out diesel fumes right at the height of a little child, it becomes obvious that this is probably not the most healthy thing for our children,” Senn added.

Featured photo: Electric school buses are in the minority, with about 95% of school buses nationwide running on diesel. (Thomas/Adobe Stock)