First Zero-Emission, Battery-Electric Buses Join the Silver Line Fleet

This week at the Southampton Bus Garage and
Maintenance Facility, Governor Charlie Baker, MassDOT Secretary and CEO
Stephanie Pollack, and MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak gathered to celebrate
the introduction of the MBTA’s first brand new, zero-emission, battery-electric
bus (BEB) prototypes into the MBTA’s Silver Line fleet.

“The procurement and testing of new
battery-electric bus technology is exactly the type of investment we aim to
continue with the Transportation Bond Bill in order to help the MBTA plan for
the future,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our Administration will continue to
explore ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Commonwealth’s
transportation system and we look forward to more improvements as the MBTA
makes progress on delivering a more reliable bus system.”

“These new zero-emission, completely
battery-electric bus prototypes are an emerging technology aimed at providing a
safe, reliable, comfortable ride while lowering energy costs and reducing
dependence on fossil fuels,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie
Pollack. “We are pleased to take steps forward with the process of evaluating
whether these kinds of new technologies that promote sustainability are
appropriate for daily service for MBTA customers.”

“We’re excited to introduce these first
battery-electric buses into service on the Silver Line to test how they operate
in real-world conditions on Boston streets and in the Silver Line tunnel,” said
MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “This is an exciting first step in testing
new technologies to electrify our bus fleet, save on fuel costs, and reduce our
maintenance needs. We look forward to seeing how these buses perform, gathering
data on power consumption, and testing their range during extreme weather as we
continue to seek ways to reduce greenhouse gases and improve service for our

With support from a $10 million federal
grant, the MBTA procured from New Flyer the production of five zero-emission,
battery-electric, 60-foot, articulated buses. All five are currently in Boston
with the first BEB prototype having arrived in April 2019 to begin testing and
operator training. Three BEBs are entering service today on Silver Line Routes
SL2, SL3, SL4, and SL5 with the next two anticipated to enter service on these
routes by the end of the summer.

Five charging stations are also being built
within the Southampton Bus Garage and Maintenance Facility as part of the
project where each BEB will be “refueled” overnight.

These BEBs are powered by both rear axle and
center axle electric motors to enhance safe operation during the winter months.
The majority of 60-foot Low Floor articulated buses in service in North America
utilize only the rear axle to provide propulsion power by pushing the bus,
which can experience traction issues during winter months when snow and ice are
present. The performance of the BEBs’ axle placement will be one feature
specifically tested and studied while in service.

The MBTA will also be one of the first
systems to test 100 percent electric heat for comfortable onboard temperatures
during winter months. Previously, U.S.-built BEBs operated diesel-fired
auxiliary heaters.

With a commitment to vehicle efficiency,
energy conservation, and sustainability, the MBTA continues to explore
available technologies and new vehicles that are capable of zero-emissions
operation in the Silver Line Transitway Tunnel, which serves the World Trade
Center, Courthouse, and South Station stops. Innovative projects like the MBTA
Silver Line Zero Emission Bus Project directly reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
emissions and also help improve ridership by offering a quieter, emission-free
transit experience.

During a two-year period following the
introduction of the BEBs into service, the MBTA will test and gather data on
this emerging technology to measure BEB performance and operational
effectiveness with a focus on power consumption of electric heaters, operator /

passenger comfort, vehicle range impact during extreme conditions, charging
requirements, and projected operating costs. The MBTA will operate these buses
on Silver Line routes to measure the capabilities of the technology for
consideration in future zero-emission bus procurements.

Over the past four years, the Baker-Polito
Administration has invested unprecedented levels of funding for transit
improvements that have included the purchase of hundreds of new buses as well
as the purchase of hybrid vehicles:

•The MBTA has purchased 575 new buses with
381 already in service and 194 additional hybrid buses in production.

•More than one third of the bus fleet was
recently replaced. Once the additional hybrid buses are in service, more than
half of all MBTA buses will be less than five years old. These new buses
replace the oldest and least fuel-efficient vehicles in the fleet and provide a
more comfortable ride for passengers.

•The piloting of these five zero-emission,
battery-electric buses is also the first step in testing new technologies to
electrify the fleet.

•In April 2018, the MBTA introduced the
Silver Line 3-Chelsea service, providing a direct link between Chelsea and the
Seaport District. This project was the first new MBTA service since the
Greenbush Commuter Rail Line came online in 2017 with the $56.7 million project
jointly funded by MassDOT ($7.6 million) and the MBTA ($49.1 million).

•Following positive results from a Transit
Signal Priority (TSP) pilot, the FMCB approved plans to expand the T’s TSP
pilot to include broad corridors of the MBTA street-level system. TSP provides
faster service to bus passengers by using signal technology to reduce dwell
times for vehicles that operate in mixed traffic.

•As part of the Better Bus Project, the MBTA
has partnered with cities and towns to implement dedicated bus lanes and queue
jumps, resulting in faster trips for bus passengers. Bus lanes currently exist
on Brighton Avenue in Allston, Washington Street in Roslindale, Massachusetts
Avenue in Cambridge, Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge and Watertown, and
Broadway in Everett.

The MBTA is currently investing more than
ever before to upgrade its infrastructure under its current $8 billion,
five-year Capital Investment Plan already in place, and the Baker-Polito
Administration’s Transportation Bond Bill includes approximately $5.7 billion
for the MBTA to continue funding improvements.

The bond bill also includes a number of
proposals to accelerate capital investments that include investments in the
MBTA’s bus system, including continued funding for the dedicated bus lanes,
signal prioritization, bus shelters and other infrastructure; for sustainable
transit system modernization investments to modernize the bus fleet and support
the Better Bus Project; and for maintaining the bus fleet and operational
improvements. There are additional provisions to allow for the use of
design-build procurement for smaller projects, which reduces the timeline for
delivering capital improvements, and job-order contracting, which is a faster,
more cost effective way to address outstanding maintenance needs. The bill
would also establish a process to leverage private-sector investment to fund
and build transit improvements.

The provisions in
the bond bill that seek to expedite the T’s pace of investment come on the
heels of the T’s plan to accelerate capital investments by exploring more
aggressive closures overnight and on weekends, increasing the regimen of
proactive inspections, negotiating with contractors to compress project
schedules, augmenting the existing workforce with a flexible team that can
provide necessary services such as flaggers, bus operators, and power, signal,
and track personnel to support capital investments.


First Zero-Emission, Battery-Electric Buses Join the Silver Line Fleet

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