Along with a number of community groups and environmental advocacy groups throughout Boston, from the Washington Street Corridor to the South Boston Waterfront, SAND has written suggestions for improvement of plans for the MBTA Silver Line. For years, these neighborhoods have advocated for light rail service -- or at least a strategy for eventual transition from bus to light rail. No such transitional plans have been forthcoming. The MBTA is proceeding with its $100 Million purchase of dual-mode buses that use electric power underground (between South Station and D Street) and burn diesel fuel on above-ground routes including Chinatown, Dorchester and most areas of the South Boston Waterfront (north of D Street, to Massport hotels, Convention Center, etc.).

To read SAND's recent letter to the MBTA, click here.

To read SAND's letter of June 1999 to the Office of Environmental Affairs, click here.

This story ran on page B6 of the Boston Globe on 6/16/2000.
©2000 The Boston Globe

Neighborhoods fear new Silver Line bus emissions

Activists want light-rail for South Boston

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., Globe Staff, 6/16/2000

Opponents of an MBTA plan to purchase buses to service the city's neighborhoods along the new Silver Line told the authority's directors yesterday the plan amounts to ''transit racism'' and demanded they halt construction of the line.

In an appearance before the directors' monthly meeting, which usually does not include outside presentations, representatives of the Washington Street Coalition and Alternatives for a Cleaner Environment charged that the MBTA has gone back on promises to quit buying diesel buses.

The activists maintain that the MBTA is being racist in offering service by pollution-causing buses to non-Caucasian communities along the line, while offering cleaner but more expensive rail service in white communities.

''Diesel emissions are no joke,'' said Pen Lo, executive director of Alternatives for a Cleaner Environment. ''Although this may sound harsh, we believe this is another example of transit racism and injustice.''

Former governor William F. Weld pledged in 1994 that the MBTA would buy no more diesel buses, which emit harmful pollutants into the air. Lo said that both the MBTA board and former general manager Patrick J. Moynihan had committed to that pledge.

But the MBTA is expected to ask the board for permission next month to buy 106 buses of different types, including 32 that are ''dual-mode,'' with electric power for use in a South Boston tunnel, and diesel engines for use on surface streets.

Lo and Robert Terrell, executive director of the Washington Street Coalition, oppose all the buses, arguing that the MBTA should be installing a light-rail system on the Silver Line instead.

MBTA deputy general manager Michael Mulhern said that the 106 buses are ''the most technically advanced buses in the country'' and that despite a worldwide search the authority could not find non-diesel buses that would work.

''This is the most progressive bus buy ever, and the country is watching,'' Mulhern said of the $100 million planned purchase. He said the buses are more advanced than anything in service in North America.

Asked if any of the current construction plans would be halted, or bus types reconsidered, Mulhern said, ''No.''

The Silver Line, now under construction, consists of a tunnel from South Station to the World Trade Center on the South Boston Waterfront, and a surface route along Washington Street from Dudley Square to Lafayette Square, near Chinatown. The tunnel would be known as the Transitway.

In addition to the 32 dual-mode buses planned for the Transitway, the MBTA intends to order 44 compressed natural gas buses for use from Dudley Square. Both models would have low floors, to accommodate the elderly and disabled, and would be 60 feet long, with two sections and a flexible connection between them.

The other 30 buses the MBTA wants to buy are low-floor electric buses for use in North Cambridge and Somerville.

Lucky Devlin, a South Boston resident also asked board members to scrap the buses planned for South Boston and build a light-rail system. The Transitway stations in South Boston and the underground connection at South Station are already well underway.

Mulhern said that, contrary to claims made by the activists, there had been a long public process with many hearings for the Silver Line.

''There was 13 years of public review and comment, and 70 meetings,'' he said.

Mulhern said that the Federal Transit Administration would not approve Washington Street for construction of another light-rail line because it is only about a half mile from the Orange Line.

But he also said that nothing planned either there or in South Boston would preclude construction of light rail sometime in the future.

In other MBTA business yesterday, the board:

Voted to have MBTA staff draw up a policy for disposing of surplus rail lines on the system for use as bicycle or walking trails.

Approved construction of a 135-foot-long anti-noise wall in Braintree, to protect residents near the MBTA Red Line and commuter-rail corridor. The wall will cost $259,000.

Agreed to spend $10 million on a consultant to help Breda Corp. fix 100 new low-floor Green Line cars that are so flawed only five have been put into service.

Originally scheduled to be phased in this year, the last of the 100 now will not be operating until 2002, MBTA officials acknowledged. MBTA officials said Breda will reimburse the MBTA for the consultant's costs.

This story ran on page B6 of the Boston Globe on 6/16/2000.

Your comments as a visitor to the SAND website would be appreciated and forwarded for discussion.