Cleaner, quieter buses come to JP

John Ruch

T workers fired for fake inspections

New buses with hybrid diesel/electric engines began running on the local Route 39 last week, and will be quieter than the current compressed natural gas buses, according to the MBTA.

The new buses debuted about a week after the MBTA fired eight managers—four of them at Jamaica Plain’s Arborway Yard—for allegedly filing false bus maintenance records for years. All buses have proven to be safe, despite the lack of required inspections, according to the MBTA.

The new buses and the maintenance crackdown are the sort of changes Gov. Deval Patrick promised with the reform-minded appointment of new MBTA General Manager Richard Davey. Davey is scheduled to appear at the Forest Hills T Station on the morning of May 6 to get input from T riders. [See JP Agenda.]

The new hybrid buses are “a step in the right direction towards accessible and environmentally sound transit in the city of Boston,” said local state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez in a press release from the MBTA.

The Route 39 bus runs on S. Huntington Avenue and Centre and South streets through JP. Five years ago, the route got a new fleet of 60-foot articulated buses powered by natural gas. The fleet has been credited with lowering pollution and improving service, but the buses are also notable for loud engines and trouble handling snow.

The new hybrid buses have the same basic design, but a different sort of engine. The buses are cleaner and more fuel-efficient than regular diesel buses, but it is unclear how they compare to the existing natural gas buses. In any case, the engines will be quieter than those on the natural gas fleet, according to the MBTA.

Each bus has a bicycle rack mounted on the front for bike commuters. For security, the buses have 10 onboard cameras with videotape as well as a live-camera feature that lets MBTA Transit Police watch riders directly.

Four of the buses immediately went into service on the Route 39 on April 20—Earth Day. More will rotate into service through June. They are also being used on the Route 28 and the Silver Line. The natural gas buses will remain in service.

The $915,000 buses were paid for with federal stimulus funds, according to the MBTA.

Bus maintenance

The allegedly false bus inspection reports were discovered by MBTA inspectors in February. While buses are supposed to be inspected and fixed up every 6,000 miles, at least 200 of them went up to 35,000 miles without inspection, according to the MBTA. Instead of inspecting the vehicles, the maintenance managers simply doctored their mileage records, according to the MBTA.

“First, I want to assure all bus riders that our buses are safe,” said Davey in a statement posted on the MBTA web site (

He said the entire bus fleet has been inspected and found safe, adding that the uninspected buses “have not been involved in any prior accidents.”

“These incidents go back years and are part of a culture at the T that we are committed to changing,” Davey said.

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