BOSTON, MA -- At a Fiscal Management Control Board meeting today, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) doubled down on procurements of fossil fuel powered buses, failed to make any commitment to set a target year for 100% electrification of its bus fleet (such as other major cities like New York, Chicago and Minneapolis, which have committed to 100% by 2040), and proposed plans to make significant service cuts to an essential service during a pandemic.
While the MBTA has stated that sustainability and climate resiliency are goals of the agency, the majority of its bus fleet is still powered by fossil fuels. MBTA’s current plans are to replace just 35 of its 370 buses over the next five years with zero-emission buses. Additionally, this first planned procurement, beginning in 2022-2023, will replace electric trolley buses, meaning there will be no action towards reducing air pollution in communities, especially communities that face higher pollution levels from dirty, fossil fuel powered buses.
A 100% electric commitment from MBTA would mean the protection of our most vulnerable communities. These are communities like Chelsea, Lynn, Lawrence, Everett, and several Boston neighborhoods with limited transit options and where bus ridership continues to be robust even during the pandemic.
“MBTA’s current bus fleet and facilities modernization plan does not include a clear path and commitment towards a healthier future. In fact, the plan is designed to strip down existing electric trolley bus infrastructure without replacing any polluting fossil fuel buses. The decisions that the MBTA makes on bus electrification now will either prolong the inequitable status quo or fast track the growth of an economically resilient, sustainable, and clean bus network. Unfortunately, today’s Board meeting signals that MBTA continues to delay investments in a technology that is critical to public health and climate action,” said Veena Dharmaraj, Director of Transportation at Sierra Club Massachusetts.
“Getting around Boston shouldn’t include a daily dose of toxic pollution. And it has become increasingly clear that electrifying our transportation network is critical to tackling the climate crisis. The MBTA’s plan for electric buses does not move fast enough to protect the public health and the climate. It is time that the MBTA take the first major step by committing to transitioning the fleet in a reasonable timeframe,” said Matt Casale, MASSPIRG Environment Campaigns director.
“We cannot abandon important initiatives to build the transportation systems that we need to improve public health, increase mobility, and meet our climate targets,” said Staci Rubin, Senior Attorney at Conservation Law Foundation. “Delaying procurement of electric trains and buses is a huge step backward from the Commonwealth’s own recommendations. We cannot forget the Commission on the Future of Transportation report, which highlights the need to move people over vehicles and rapidly electrify our buses and commuter rail infrastructure.”
“We are disappointed to see that the T refuses to consider piloting other types of electric buses, directly at odds with earlier claims that battery buses can't meet the T's needs and despite the ability of the current fleet to use quick charging,” said Jarred Johnson, Executive Director of TransitMatters. “We also want to see a plan that outlines when EJ communities will see zero emission buses in their communities.”
“The MBTA is short sighted in their plans for electrifying the bus fleet,” said Mela Bush-Miles, Director of Transit Oriented Development and the T Riders Union (Alternatives for Community and Environment). “When faced with decisions to purchase new buses, diesel buses in any combination whether hybrid etc., should be off the list. Period! Our planet does not have a do over plan! Life spans in Roxbury are 30 years less than Back Bay or Beacon Hill. The MBTA needs to act NOW. We don't have 15 years. Building out the fleet in Cambridge is not a sustainable solution for EJ communities. This plan is short sighted and does not address the needs of the most transit dependent residents and riders. The T must treat their most frequent customers better.”
About the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.8 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
About MASSPIRG: MASSPIRG is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. On the web at www.masspirg.org.
About Conservation Law Foundation: Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) protects New England’s environment for the benefit of all people. We use the law, science, and the market to create solutions that preserve natural resources, build healthy communities, and sustain a vibrant regional economy. CLF’s approach to environmental advocacy is distinguished by our close involvement with local communities; our ability to design and implement effective strategies; and our capacity for developing innovative and economically sound solutions to our region’s most critical environmental challenges. Learn more at www.clf.org.
About TransitMatters: TransitMatters is dedicated to improving transit in and around Boston by offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates, and informing the public. We utilize a high level of critical analysis to advocate for plans and policies that promote convenient, effective, and equitable transportation for everyone. Learn more at www.transitmatters.org.
About Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE): ACE BUILDS POWER We work to build the power of communities of color and low-income communities in Massachusetts to eradicate environmental racism and classism, create healthy, sustainable communities, and achieve environmental justice. We build power by organizing communities of color to speak up and change the unacceptable. Visit www.ace-ej.org
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.