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Last of the trolley buses to end runs in March

The Belmontonian reports the T is pulling its electric-powered trolley buses on the 73 line out of Harvard Square in March, to be replaced at first by diesel buses and then by battery-powered buses that need small diesel engines to supply heat on colder days.

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Comments

Moving from electric to diesel in 2021 sounds like it makes a lot of sense. What keep using what's been working for over a hundred years.

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Then they expect to switch over to battery-operated buses - which at least initially will have small diesel engines to supply heat.

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They said they were going to have electric buses on the Silver Line.

Today we have a fleet of five electric buses which are used almost exclusively in the Seaport (equity!) and usually only for a few hours at a time.

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There's another trolleybus line that branches off the 73 just past the Star Market on Mount Auburn Street, running to Watertown Square.

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...it's both routes. They're planning to scrap the entire North Cambridge/Harvard Square trackless system.

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The Boston Street Railway Association must be in a dither!

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The BSRA folks (disclosure: I've been a member since 1994) is planning to have a Farewell to the Trackless Trolleys tour next Saturday. I rode it for nearly 18 years to Watertown, so while bittersweet, I decided to let the fans take their last ride. I will try to find a Saturday for one last ride on my own before they end.

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I’ve always been fascinated by those trolley-buses. I guess I have always been that wide-eyed suburban little girl…
Peace/out

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Fire everyone at the MBTA this level of incompetence shows rot from the top to the bottom.

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are you referring to? Modernizing the bus system seems like a pretty competent move to me.

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...chosen to use the overhead wire infrastructure to purchase in-motion charging trolleybuses (think current trolleybuses, with batteries for up to 20-ish miles of off-wire operation) which can operate in service all day. Instead, they're going with battery buses which can at best operate for 8-10 hours at a time. They'll need more buses (more capital cost, more garage space) as a trade off for the cost of maintaining the overhead.

The in-motion charging buses could have been used to electrify several additional routes out of Harvard Square right away, but instead we'll be waiting several years to see if they can find a battery bus which can handle our operating conditions.

We're scrapping an electric bus system that's in place and working now, for one that might work in a few years. Hopefully.

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Electric buses powered on batteries rather than wires are quite dumb in urban areas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqHsXv7Umvw

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Going backwards. Sigh

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The T should be looking at the overhead catenary system as an asset. No one is opposed to switching to electric buses, but the catenary system lets you charge those buses on the fly and get a lot more out of them. Instead, they see it as something to ditch, and we're going to get battery buses that can't cover a full day on a charge. So they'll need to rotate each bus out of service during the day to charge it, and in some places the T is thinking about adding in charging points at the ends of routes, instead of just using the system that exists.

Also note that the current trolleybuses are truly fully electric, but the replacement battery buses will need to burn diesel for heat - maybe it's a small amount, but it's still more diesel than is being burned now.

Seattle, San Francisco, Dayton, Philadelphia, and Vancouver all use trolleybuses and have made informed decisions to invest in new trolleybuses.

The cities of Berlin and Prague (though god forbid we learn from international examples) are actually working on new trolleybus corridors specifically as a means of decarbonizing their bus fleets, focusing on busy routes where a lot of buses could charge as they travel on a shared corridor. We could do something like this for the bus routes going into Ruggles and Forest Hills, for example.

Also, this paranoia about a trolleybus being inflexible is completely unfounded. On a trip to Switzerland, I was on a trolleybus in Zurich when it came to a construction site and diversion. The driver lowered the poles from her seat and continued driving on backup power, and that's what basically any modern electric bus with in-motion charging would be able to do.

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This means the Watertown car house is no longer needed. Say hello to more Life Sciences space!

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They haven't used the Watertown carhouse in ages.

They could have used it to store IMC buses, but why would you want to electrify buses when you could dieselize them.

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There are other trolley buses that cannot be switched to totally diesel.

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They're buying "enhanced electric hybrid" buses. Sounds good, right?

Except they're diesel buses which charge batteries outside the tunnel and then run on the batteries in the tunnel. Which adds all sorts of inefficiencies they could avoid if they weren't deathly afraid of overhead wire.

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And add to it that while many transit authorities are running sizeable numbers of BEBs, the T still has a total of 5 full BEBs, with none on order. If they were even partially on the way towards having successful BEBs this might be believable, but they're not.

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The MBTA could easily help Boston take on similar attributes of San Francisco by relying upon a diverse public transportation system. We have subways and buses, trolley buses, a bona fide dedicated line trolley.

The deficiency of imagination always amazes me about Boston. There is so much natural or human built infrastructure that can keep Boston at a world class city level. A transportation system that is as varied as any, a classical music scene that is top tier, an urban integrated forested system the envy of any city. Immediate access to fresh seafood. Natural beaches. The beauty of four solid seasons.

Yet so much potential is allowed to just wisp away. For example Boston needs a plant conservatory. A plant conservatory, with various artificially maintained climates would have lines of people lining up to enjoy during the winter months. The Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh is a prime example. In Boston there is none.

The public transportation could be celebrated in its age and variety. Instead if continues to be treated as an unwanted child that has to be fed and clothed but is still treated as a necessary evil.

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Watertown and Cambridge have projects to upgrade Mt Auburn St and Mass Ave respectively with protected bike lanes and bus lanes or bus priority. Removal of the overhead wires will provide significantly more flexibility with these projects.

The overhead wires limit cross section flexibility including where to place the buses, and fire access to adjacent buildings.

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Buses should be in the middle of the street. Then the wires are out of the way. (This is only really an issue on North Mass Ave where there are particularly tall buildings.)

This could also be solved with a big scram switch in the firehouse and IMC buses. Fire near the wires? Push the scram switch, kill the system, then isolate what you need to. The IMC buses could then operate on battery power until the necessary section was isolated.

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Buses should be in the middle of the street.

Isn't that simultaneously one of the obstacles cited to prevent installation/restoration of street cars/ETB in other locations? "...can't have them out in the middle of the road because ADA - can't build a sidewalk out into the road for level boarding, etc..." I seem to recall having heard/read that more than once in discussions about the E and Forest Hills.

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...except for the portion of Mt Auburn east of Fresh Pond Parkway. There's lots of room along the corridor for bus lanes...which actually help with using trolleybuses since you know where the bus is going to go. Trolleybus poles also have quite a lot of flexibility - the current ones can travel in either lane easily on the current two-lane stretches. An need to realign the wires over the street - that's actually quite easy and cheap to do, though I'm sure the T would say it costs millions.

I suspect the upcoming reconstruction of Mt Auburn St (and Cambridge's portion of Belmont St) were deliberately delayed by the T and MassDOT so they could time it with the removal of wires. A more progressive agency could have instead leveraged these road projects to use highway funds for transit improvements and rebuild those portions of the overhead system at no cost to the T...but no.

Keep in mind...the Belmont St/Trapelo Rd portion of the 73 was completely rebuilt in 2016 following that street project. Those wires will be ripped down after less than six years of use.

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I think it's a great idea for the T to go all electric, but why aren't they starting this pilot elsewhere, like where there are actual still diesel or CNG buses already? The current electric buses are a proven technology, but (and I could be wrong here), the battery buses are just not there yet. These routes are where the transition to battery powered buses should end, not begin.

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I don't want them to get rid of the ETB either, but...
maybe there is some sort of economic rationale to it?

if they started "elsewhere", they would be operating (and servicing, and maintaining parts inventory) four different bus systems at once - battery, diesel, CNG, and ETB.

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Because there are a number of massive road rebuilding projects about to start along the routes the trolley buses use. During construction (~5 years) the buses will have to use other routes, so they won't be able to use the trolley buses anyway.

Might it make sense to plan to reinstate trolley buses and even expand the catenary network, when the rebuilding is complete? Perhaps, I don't have the technical knowledge for an opinion, but the immediate step makes sense.

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In case anyone wants to tell the MBTA how terrible this idea is, there's a public meeting about it on February 15.

They also have an email address listed for "queries and comments" about the project, at the bottom of .

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Here's the info for the meeting, including a Zoom signup link:

https://www.mbta.com/events/2022-02-15/public-meeting-bus-electrificatio...

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