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Concerns about T's battery-busing plan

This letter was submitted by Julia Bloom of Sylvia Street, Arlington:

MBTA bus image

I am a regular commuter on the MBTA and rely on it to get to work and leisure activities. One of the routes I use regularly is the 71, which is powered by overhead catenary wires that provide the buses with electricity.

I am deeply concerned with the T’s current plans to remove these catenary wires permanently and replace the current electric buses on the 71 and 73 routes with Battery Electric Buses (BEBs), which use diesel heaters. The T recently announced that it plans to scrap the catenary system on these routes when the restoration project on Mount Auburn Street begins next spring and, under its “Better Bus Project,” convert all of its buses to BEBs across the system starting in 2022 in order to standardize its fleet.

This would be a step in the wrong direction from a carbon-emissions standpoint. By removing the catenary wires on the 71 and 73 routes, the T would destroy two of the only all-electric routes in the system and replace them with buses that add more fossil fuels and pollutants to the air, an issue that will be magnified if all buses in the fleet become BEBs.

The recent impact of severe storms and smoke from California fires over Boston has made our climate crisis abundantly clear. We need to take steps now to make our transit system more sustainable. A report by Mass Audubon includes a chart showing the sources of the Massachusetts residents average carbon emissions, on page 4. The part referring to transit -- "How we move" -- is labeled at 35 percent.

The MBTA must commit to keeping the catenary wires on the 71 and 73 bus routes and move toward a fully electrified and sustainable bus system.

This letter was published Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.

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