MBTA Electric Buses: A Letter to the Governor


Dear Governor Baker:

I urge you on behalf of the Quincy Climate Action Network to convert the MBTA buses that operate in and around our city to battery electric buses. As climate activists QCAN members are working first of all to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that threatens the property and lives of Quincy residents, and converting the fleet to electric buses is a critical part of achieving that goal. Electric buses have one quarter the carbon footprint of diesel hybrid buses, a footprint that will grow increasingly small and eventually disappear altogether as the electricity supply comes more and more from renewable sources. Today one Quincy bus route alone, the 215, daily emits 2,000 pounds of CO2 equivalent. Multiply that by the number of bus routes in our city and convert all the routes to electric buses, and you’ve made a real dent in GHG pollution. What’s more you’ll have done it at a substantial cost savings because lifetime costs of buying, maintaining, and operating battery electric buses are significantly lower than those for hybrid diesel buses.

QCAN members live and breathe in Quincy, so our city’s air quality also affects us every day of our lives. Breathing the air in our part of the world can threaten human health. Take our asthma rates, for instance. According to the state’s own numbers, one in nine Massachusetts residents suffers from asthma—including more than 10 percent of adults and almost 13 percent of children. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has named the Boston metropolitan area number eight on its list of the top 20 asthma capitals for 2019, based on estimated asthma prevalence, emergency department visits due to asthma, and asthma-related fatalities. By comparison, New York City and Los Angeles, typically thought of as places with unhealthy air, don’t even make the top 20 list.

Children at schools in Weymouth and Quincy have been cited as suffering significantly higher rates of asthma than the state average, a fact that should come as no surprise. In recent years Quincy has suffered a decline in air quality owing to huge increases in vehicle traffic, including the all-day rush hour conditions on I-93 and routine tie-ups on local streets that have resulted from a development boom that has added some 2,000 residential units in the city since 2013. Emissions from the diesel engines of buses, some of them not in good working condition, exacerbate the problem.

The coming years will likely bring a further decline in air quality, given the pace of real estate development in Quincy, with 2,000 more units in the planning or construction stages, along with the emissions we can expect from a new compressor station being built just over the Fore River Bridge.

With zero tailpipe emissions, battery electric buses can help bring our city’s air quality back to its status of ten years ago—not pristine, perhaps, but better than now. According to reporting in the Boston Globe, the old bus barn on Hancock Street is slated for replacement anyway. We respectfully suggest that you seize the day and replace the old barn with a facility that accommodates electric buses, and further that you move expeditiously towards a total conversion of the MBTA’s Quincy-based bus fleet to battery electric. Not only would it help preserve the planet for future generations, but it would give us Quincy residents something to cheer about today.

Best wishes,

David Reich
Board Chair