In an effort to help reduce the MBTA's carbon footprint, we’re converting our bus fleet to zero-emissions vehicles over the next several decades.
This will require:
- Gradually replacing our nine bus maintenance facilities—upgrading one facility every 2-3 years
- Investing an estimated $4.5 billion in modern bus facilities that can support battery electric buses (BEBs)
- Investing $100 million annually (as facilities become ready), to build our fleet of BEBs
As part of the Better Bus Project, this program meets the following goals:
- Smaller footprint: BEBs reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions and help mitigate the overall carbon footprint of the T
- Service flexibility: Upgraded facilities will have expanded service capacity to allow for improved frequency
- Service reliability: We will modernize working environments for maintenance staff and replace older buses to bring our fleet into a State of Good Repair, reducing maintenance costs and supporting safety and reliability
- Equity: Investing in our bus facilities and fleet ensures access for our riders, especially along some of our busiest routes
Building a Better T
As part of our $8 billion, 5-year capital investment plan, we're renovating stations, modernizing fare collection systems, upgrading services for our buses, subways, and ferries, and improving the accessibility of the entire system.
Our Plan for a Zero-Emissions Fleet
Our goal is to transition to a zero-emissions fleet that improves service flexibility, capacity, and equity over the next several decades. This will require changes to the system as a whole, which will need to be coordinated to happen in tandem.
To achieve this, our strategy targets three focus areas as part of the overall project. Each of these areas presents its own set of challenges and possible solutions:
Without proper working conditions, electrical infrastructure, and charging technology at our bus facilities, we cannot expand our BEB fleet. All nine of our facilities need to be upgraded or replaced—and building a bus facility takes years to plan, design, and construct. This is one of the biggest challenges we face, and delays in funding could delay the timeline.
As new facilities are completed under the Bus Facility Modernization program, we’ll build in extra capacity to use as “swing space” while we rehabilitate other facilities. We'll stage the construction of these facilities in phases, seeking separate funding for each. We expect this process to span multiple decades.
During this time, our fleet will continue to age, so we’ll need to purchase Enhanced Electric Hybrids (EEHs)—which combine diesel and electric power—if our facilities cannot yet accommodate fully electric BEBs.
We will partner with municipalities and local utility companies to implement new charging technology across our bus network.
Through these partnerships, we’ll also need to map out where and how buses will be charged along each route. Some buses are able to run for longer on a single charge and can be charged at depots, while others will need to be charged en route.
Until new facilities are ready, we’ll need to purchase Enhanced Electric Hybrids (EEHs) to replace our oldest buses. As facilities like North Cambridge and Quincy come online, we can buy more BEBs.
Integrating BEBs into our operations will require large-scale changes to how we operate buses to ensure they are fully charged and reliable. We’ll start with routes that are better suited to convert to BEBs due to their length, geography (topography), and schedule.
We’ll also keep learning through:
- Testing BEB technology in cold weather to identify potential performance issues and solutions, like outfitting them with auxiliary heaters to retain battery range
- Monitoring changes in the rapidly evolving bus market and how they affect our plan
- Evaluating ways to implement charging and backup plans for power losses at facilities
What We’re Doing Now
We’re taking a phased approach to purchasing additional vehicles and upgrading the facilities that will support BEBs.
Currently, we’re evaluating opportunities and planning projects that can help us move toward a zero-emissions future faster:
|Project||Silver Line BEB Pilot||Definition||A fleet of five, 60-foot BEB's, purchased in 2019, to learn more about the technology||Status||In progress|
|Project||Fleet State of Good Repair||Definition||A strategic purchasing plan to replace our oldest buses first to maintain safe and reliable service||Status||In progress|
|Project||Quincy Bus Facility||Definition||An all-new facility that can accommodate BEBs and expand system capacity||Status||In design|
|Project||North Cambridge Route Conversion||Definition||Convert North Cambridge garage (Routes 71 and 73) from electric trolleybuses to BEBs. This will improve reliability, flexibility, and operations.||Status||In design|
|Project||New Technology Testing||Definition||Ongoing tests to evaluate how we can integrate these vehicles into BEB-ready facilities||Status||In progress|
Presentations to the Board
- MBTA Bus Fleet and Facility Update (April 26, 2021)
- Modernizing Our Bus Fleet and Facilities (November 9, 2020)
- Battery Electric Bus Performance (September 14, 2020)
MBTA Bus Electrification: Emissions Reductions Analysis (Spring 2021)
For other questions and comments related to Bus Electrification, please contact engineering@MBTA.com.