MBTA Trolley Buses Take Their Last Ride This Weekend

Photo: MBTA / Twitter

CAMBRIDGE (WBZNewsRadio) - It's the end of an era, as the MBTA's electric trolley-buses, which have been in operation in Cambridge and surrounding towns for 90 years, will be permanently disconnected from their overhead wires and replaced with diesel vehicles.

The decision from the MBTA aims to reconstruct municipal streets and sidewalks, making streets safer and more inviting for people who are walking, biking and riding the MBTA. It's been a long time coming as the MBTA works to switch all of it's buses to battery electric ones by 2040 and rebuild bus garages to accommodate charging. The transportation organization says the projects will take at least five-and-a-half-years to complete and will rid the state of it's only remaining trolley bus service on Routes 71 and 73. While the trolley bus service on Routes 71 and 73 will be replaced with diesel-hybrid buses for the first two years of this shutdown period, the MBTA expects to begin operating battery-electric buses (BEBs) on Routes 71 and 73 beginning in spring 2024.

The replacement of the trolley-buses are receiving a mixed reaction from riders, many of whom said they love the trackless trolley-buses that have been moving people around the Boston area since the 1930s. Attached to electric overhead wires, the buses run without tailpipe emissions and replacing them with diesel-based vehicles could be seen as a step in the wrong direction by environmentalists. However the diesel-run buses will only be in operation for two years, ultimately leading to an electric-only fleet.

And it isn't just the green aspect that comes with the change. The overhead wires come with their own challenges, Scott Hamwey, the MBTA's director of bus modernization told a public meeting last month.

When a tree falls on a wire or ice builds up, or during construction, the MBTA replaces the trolley-buses with diesel buses. Those disruptions happen about 15 percent of the time, Hamwey said. The trolley-buses can’t be moved around to other parts of the system if they’re needed elsewhere, limiting flexibility.

WBZ'S Chris Fama (@CFamaWBZ) reports

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