Iain Stewart: Public transportation and electric rides

  • In this 2018 photo passengers board a bus powered by electricity supplied through overhead wires, in Watertown. AP

Published: 5/15/2022 10:02:03 AM
Modified: 5/15/2022 10:00:16 AM

There’s been a lot of talk recently about promoting electric cars and increasing the number of charging stations, both around town, and on busy highways. All well and good. Americans love their cars which offer us freedom of movement and independence to go anywhere, whenever we want.

However, one thing that has been largely overlooked is that many people just can’t afford to buy an e-car, even with rebates. I would suggest that states, cities, and towns, put more emphasis on, and money toward, electric public transportation. I’ve been told that many buses run by the Pioneer Valley Transportation Authority are underutilized and inconvenient for a lot of people. As we transition to, and replace, our carbon fuel-based buses with electric vehicles, I think it’s time to rethink the way that public transportation works.

I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I have a couple of ideas. It seems to me that if we had a fleet of smaller electric buses, with both fixed schedules, similar to what we have now, and the ability to schedule flexible routes that could be tailored for the convenience of regular commuter subscribers, their would be a much greater occupancy rate. This would benefit commuters going to and coming back from work, students, the elderly, handicapped, and those who can not afford an e-car.

I would also encourage the implementation of more bus stops that include the installation of bike racks, so that potential passengers could ride their bikes to the nearest bus stop, leave their bicycle there when they get on the bus, and pedal home when they return. Perhaps something resembling this idea could be successfully implemented in Northampton and the surrounding communities.

Currently, 37 U.S. cities are utilizing nonemission buses. Looking toward the future, the Sierra Club estimates that electric buses will reach subsidy-free, purchase-price parity with diesel buses by the mid-2020s, or 2030 at the latest. Cambridge has committed to replacing its entire fleet with nonemission buses by 2040.

Iain Stewart



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