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Baker-Polito Administration Marks Climate Week by Celebrating Electric Transit Buses Transition 

TAUNTONIn celebration of Massachusetts Climate Week, the Baker-Polito Administration is highlighting the successful replacement of six older, diesel transit buses with six all-electric transit buses, which have been on the roads in the communities served by the Greater Attleboro Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) for the past eight months. Collectively, the new buses provide estimated annual reductions of 453 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 1.4 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions that otherwise would have been emitted by the older diesel buses, polluting the air and contributing to climate change. The elimination of tailpipe emissions from the new electric buses makes a significant contribution to reducing ground-level pollution that negatively affects public health in local communities.

“Investing in electric transit buses will tremendously aid Massachusetts efforts as we work to achieve our ambitious climate goals, such as reducing the state’s carbon footprint and expanding a clean energy economy while reaching Net Zero in 2050,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “Climate Week serves as a great opportunity for us all to celebrate Massachusetts continued leadership in climate action, including our ongoing efforts to reduce harmful emissions from heavy-duty vehicles by supporting the electrification of our transportation sector.”

“As the Administration plans for the future of transportation, we are seeking to reduce the carbon footprint of all vehicles, especially those used for public transportation,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Jamey Tesler.  “We are pleased to see that electric buses will be in Taunton as the transition to these buses will reduce the exposure of residents to diesel emissions, improve public health, and help the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach ambitious climate goals.”

The GATRA received a total of $5.8 million from the Volkswagen (VW) Settlement Grant Program, which is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), to purchase six all-electric transit buses and six EV charging stations. The six buses currently operate out of the Taunton terminal and cover routes in Taunton and Raynham, with plans to expand to routes in Attleboro. The Commonwealth received more than $75 million as its share of the $2.925 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust established under a 2016 settlement between VW and the U.S. Department of Justice for VW’s avoidance of federal vehicle emission standards for nitrogen oxides (NOx). To date, Massachusetts has committed $22 million in funding to replace diesel buses with electric transit buses for GATRA, the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority, and the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority.

“Massachusetts is using its allocation from the VW Settlement to accelerate the adoption of clean, electric transit buses that serve the general public,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “With these grants, Massachusetts is continuing to transform the state’s public transportation system from a diesel-based one to an electric one, which is how Massachusetts is going to attain the aggressive emissions reduction goals set forth in the Global Warming Solutions Act.”

GATRA officials report that the feedback on the new electric transit buses from drivers and riders has been very positive, and the rollout of the buses was almost flawless. The electric buses have registered approximately 14,000 miles on their routes through the communities of Taunton and Raynham since they began operations in January. 

“GATRA is excited to be part of the movement towards electric public transportation in Massachusetts,” said GATRA Administrator Mary Ellen A. DeFrias. “These buses represent an important first step in this conversion process and we are looking forward to addressing the rest of the Authority’s climate resiliency needs in the coming years.” 

“GATRA's electric buses have been a welcome addition to our city,” said Taunton Mayor Shaunna O’Connell.“Especially during Climate Week, we are thankful to MassDEP for their efforts to support local communities in reducing pollution and advancing initiatives, which improve our environment and the health of our city residents.”  

NOx contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter, both of which are linked to short- and long-term respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. One of the primary components of NOx – nitrogen dioxide – also aggravates respiratory diseases such as asthma and may contribute to childhood asthma development. Environmentally, NOx emissions contribute to global warming, acid rain formation, and detrimental nutrient overloading in waterways. For more information on MassDEP’s efforts to electrify the state’s transportation system, please visit the agency’s Volkswagen Diesel Settlements & Environmental Mitigation webpage.

“I am very pleased that this year’s Climate Week 2022 celebration includes the implementation of six new all-electric buses by GATRA, the regional transit authority serving Berkley, Carver, Dighton, Middleborough, Raynham, Taunton, Wareham, and 21 other municipalities throughout Southeastern Massachusetts,” said Dean of the Massachusetts Senate Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton). “While transportation emissions remain a major part of our Commonwealth’s overall greenhouse gas emission total, our public transportation system has a significant opportunity to prevent ground-level pollution negatively impacting air quality and public health in our local communities. I am grateful that resources from the Commonwealth’s Volkswagen Settlement are being invested in initiatives designed to curtail these harmful emissions and look forward to future opportunities to secure the clean energy future now within our grasp.”

MassDEP’s mission is to protect and enhance the Commonwealth’s natural resources – air, water and land – to provide for the health, safety and welfare of all people, and a clean and safe environment for future generations. In carrying out this mission, MassDEP commits to address and advance environmental justice and equity for all people of the Commonwealth, provide meaningful, inclusive opportunities for people to participate in agency decisions that affect their lives and ensure a diverse workforce that reflects the communities served by the agency.