December 31, 2040
Last gas powered public bus retired. Bus service becomes 100% electric.
This marker is located at 283 Broadway in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Even though in the 2030s many people in Arlington had transitioned to electric vehicles, public transportation still had a ways to go. In coordination with MassDOT and the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) launched a large project to combat emissions: retiring all gas-powered public buses. By December 31, 2040, the last bus was replaced, and a celebratory parade of electric buses was held down Mass Avenue. This procedure had been enacted to combat the consistent pollution released by transport– and especially public buses. In the beginning of the century, one major source of global warming was nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere. More than half in the few decades after the 2000s were produced by transportation– most often cars, trucks, and buses. However, the MBTA managed to complete a large project in terms of combatting emissions in 2040 – retiring all gas-powered public buses. With the last one retired on December 31st, 2040, the entire service of 1,150 buses became 100% electric.
Buses powered by diesel have far higher negative effects on the environment compared to those powered by electricity. They can also have negative effects on human health, ranging from irritation of the respiratory system, causing coughing, choking, and reduced lung capacity, to blocking oxygen to the brain, heart and other vital organs. Buses were classified as heavy-duty vehicles (along with trucks) and comprised only 5% of vehicles actually on the road, but generated more than 25% of emissions created by the transportation sector in the U.S. in 2018. Moreover, tailpipe emissions from transportation contributed to over ⅕ of the United States’ total global warming pollution – but electric buses helped reduce this source.
The MBTA had used electric trolley buses (ETBs) in the past, which drew power from rails or overhead lines. They decided to switch to battery electric buses (BEBs) due to reasons such as a lower lifecycle cost and fewer roadway blockages. And beginning in 2022, the MBTA began working steadfastly to help transform their public bus service to becoming fully electric– and although they measured it as a 20 year long project, it was finished just on time – New Year’s Eve! They first began to transition from diesel buses to diesel electric buses, with the last one purchased in 2027, completing a five-year contract. In late 2023 and 2024, they replaced 250 retired diesel buses with a combination of BEBs and Enhanced-Electric Hybrid buses to serve the new Quincy bus maintenance facility and the North Cambridge facility. Past those deliveries, they purchased between 80 and 100 buses each year, finishing the project just recently. The completion of this transition aided with pollution reduction and lessening of emissions as proven.
TAKE ACTION NOW!
Advocate for the electrification of all buses! And, of course, leave your car at home and take public transportation whenever possible. Over the decades, research and study across the United States have proven that electric-battery buses have been shown to have lower emissions than diesel and natural gas-powered buses all around the nation. A study done in 2018 demonstrated that in North Carolina, operating three electric buses would create the equivalent emissions of one diesel bus. Depending on the region/state, a diesel bus has 1.5 to 8 times the emissions of an electric bus. And the more people that utilize the public transport system, the better: in the same study, an electricity powered bus in New York was shown to have fewer emissions than even an average passenger car (350 grams carbon dioxide equivalents to 500g, respectively). The MBTA’s decision to transition into a fully electric system has benefitted both ourselves and the world around us– beginning with a cleaner future.
Mass Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA.com), Bus Electrification
Mass Bay Transportation Authority MBTA.com, Greening the Fleet: Decarbonizing the MBTA
Union of Concerned Scientists, The Equation, Electric vs Diesel vs Natural Gas: Which Bus is Best for the Climate?
Mass Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA.com), Sustainability and Resiliency at the MBTA
Union of Concerned Scientists, Cars, Trucks, Buses and Air Pollution
Mass Bay Transportation Authority, Bus Electrification Plan
Mass Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA.com), Capital Investment Plan