The transition to e-buses opens new opportunities to boost social, gender and economic inclusivity.
Moving towards efficient, livable, low-carbon cities will inevitably require significant structural changes in the transport sector. With the right policies aimed at a Just Transition, these changes can open doors to greater social, gender, and economic inclusivity.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) considers a Just Transition “greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind”. Or, in the words of Marina Moscoso Teixeira de Mendonca, former Technical Director at Despacio in Bogotá: “Just transition means that all efforts we make to mitigate and adapt to climate change, has to consider that people are different, and that policies, programs and actions impact people’s lives in different ways.“ In the best case, e-buses offer a real-world case study for how transitioning to low-carbon transport modes can contribute to fairer and more inclusive cities.
The transition to e-buses is an opportunity to rectify the significant under-representation of women in the public transit sector. Currently only making up 15% of the workforce, several cities have used the electrification of their bus fleets to include more female drivers. One example is Bogotá, which, like many cities, has only few female bus drivers. Out of the city’s 23,965 bus drivers, 328 are women, a mere 1.4%. However, the government sent out a call looking for interested female e-bus drivers. The result – an astounding 4,308 women responded. Indian cities took another approach to boost female participation, by including requirements into the Grand Challenge Tender in India. The tender includes a minimum requirement for female participation, saying: “Selected Bidder shall operate e-busses with a minimum of 25% women drivers, 25% women staff at the depots and 25% women workforce at the plants”. Research has shown that such an increase in female participation has wide-ranging impacts: it increases the women’s economic autonomy, pushes gender stereotypes, and makes bus journeys safer.
Increasing female participation is not the only positive opportunity e-buses present – the transition to e-buses can also lead to new jobs, thereby stimulating the local economy. C40 estimates that proper investment in public transport could create 4.6 million additional jobs by 2030. The adoption of e-buses is no exception, as local e-bus production can bring about a boom in new jobs. For example, in TUMI deep-dive city, Kampala, Uganda, the state-owned car manufacturer, Kiira Motors, has started the construction of an electric vehicle production facility. Once it is fully operational, the facility will produce 5,000 e-buses per year and create an estimated 14,000 direct and indirect jobs. In cities where youth unemployment is high, projects such as these are vital to creating a stronger local economy.
Despite the many positive benefits, a Just Transition to e-buses does not come without its challenges. One fear expressed by many bus drivers, for example, is the fear of job loss as a result of the transition. This fear is not unfounded – e-buses do create a shift in jobs, as they require less mechanical maintenance but instead more electrical maintenance than traditional diesel buses. However, cities can and must combat this challenge by reskilling diesel bus operators and technicians. Examples in India show that this can done in several ways – through state-led initiatives, academia-led initiatives, or manufacturer-led initiatives. Karnataka, a state in India, for instance, has begun collaborating with Tata Motors and Siemens to develop curriculums for industrial training institutes. Measures like that ensure that no-one is left behind in the transition to sustainable mobility.
With a population of 2 million residents, the city of Guadalajara has over 5,000 buses on the road to carry its passengers across the city. 63 of these buses are currently electric, with the goal of expanding this number to 250 e-buses by 2023 and 1000 e-buses by 2030. Part of the city’s transition to e-buses is a female training program, designed to encourage more women to become bus drivers. Patricia Martínez Barba, General Director of Guadalajara’s Institute for Planning and Development says they created the program because they wanted “to send a message of inclusion. Because they are women, they are providing a service with higher quality, greater efficiency, friendliness and with a certain sensitivity that allows them to be attentive to the need of all bus users”.
Link to other key messages
The Just Transition can only be achieved if governments simultaneously set ambitious climate goals. To learn more about how e-buses are playing a key role in cities’ climate ambitions, click here.