19 Massachusetts Mayors Deliver Letter Calling on State Department of Transportation to Accelerate Shift to Electric Transit Buses

Emily Norton

Boston, MA — Today as a part of National Drive Electric Week, Mayors Joseph Petty of Worcester, Donna Holaday of Newburyport, William Martin of Greenfield, and David Narkewicz of Northampton and the Sierra Club sent a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation signed by 15 other Mayors, including Boston’s Mayor Walsh, urging the DOT to commit to 100% zero emission buses by 2030.

“With zero emission buses, we can kickstart a healthier future and economy,” said Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty. The health of our neighborhoods, our economy, and our climate depend on a switch to clean transportation.”

The transportation sector remains a significant contributor of greenhouse gases, accounting for around 40 percent of Massachusetts’s carbon emissions. Electrifying our transit fleets will give Commonwealth’s residents access to sustainable, environment friendly transportation options.

Air pollution caused by vehicular traffic has been linked to respiratory ailments like asthma, cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer and diabetes. With no tailpipe emissions, electric buses eliminate hazardous exhaust where they operate. All-electric buses also provide significant reductions in NOx, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter emissions compared to diesel and CNG vehicles. Transitioning to zero emission electric buses will improve public health, especially in low income communities most affected by traffic related pollution.

“A great next step to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels while cleaning up our air and climate is to electrify our transportation sector, including with zero emission transit buses. Partnering with the state will enable cities to invest in this transition which will have an enormous impact on air quality and public health.” said Greenfield Mayor William Martin.

Massachusetts is eligible for more than $75 million in funding through the Volkswagen Environment Mitigation Trust. Transit agencies can apply these resources and leverage additional funds from EPA’s DERA program to procure electric vehicles and install charging equipment.

“As mayors, we know that electrifying our transit system will lead to environmental, social and economic benefits for our constituents,” said Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday. “Making the switch to quiet, safe and clean zero emission buses will accelerate Massachusetts towards a clean energy future.”

“Advances in electric battery technology has ensured that electric bus ranges are increasing while charging times are decreasing. Not only are battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell transit buses the cleanest buses available, but they’re quieter and cheaper to maintain and fuel, too.” said Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, who also chairs the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority Advisory Board.  

If they act, Massachusetts would join other transit agencies across the country making a switch to zero emission buses. Three transit agencies in California have already committed to fully electrify their transit bus fleets: Los Angeles -the second largest transit agency in the U.S. with more than 2,200 buses, by 2030, the Antelope Valley Transit Agency (AVTA) with a bus fleet of 85 by 2018, and Foothill Transit with more than 300 buses by2030. Seattle has committed to 120 new electric buses, and Philadelphia will be adding 25 electric buses to its fleet.

Emily Norton

“Even as the administration in D.C. pumps the brakes on progress fighting climate change, local transit agencies are switching into high gear by investing in quiet, clean and safe zero emission buses,” said Massachusetts Sierra Club Director, Emily Norton. “From Los Angeles, to Seattle, to Philadelphia, cities around the country are making the switch to zero emission transit buses. With funds from the Volkswagen settlement, Massachusetts DOT has a key opportunity to make a real commitment to act on climate and better the lives of all Commonwealth residents by joining these cities in the switch to clean, zero emission buses.”