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MBTA proposes new garage for battery-powered buses at Arborway yard

The MBTA is proposing to build a garage to service a new generation of battery-powered buses in a corner of the Arborway bus yard in Forest Hills.

The public will get a chance to see and discuss the plans at a public meeting on Dec. 9.

Rather than tear down any of the existing bus-yard buildings, which now service CNG buses, the T says it will build the new garage on a corner of the yard at Washington Street and the Arborway.

The T used to call the Arborway yard, expanded after the end of Forest Hills trolley service in 1985 "temporary" - it once even proposed a smaller $200-million replacement that would allow for construction of housing on part of the site.

Now, the T says it needs an even bigger maintenance building for buses it plans to start running on 2027 that will use batteries - although with diesel heating systems. The T says it will start retiring the current CNG buses in 2028.

The T says the new buses will be cleaner than the current CNG models and, at 60 feet, will be longer than the present buses, which it says will let them carry more buses and add additional service to Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester.

The Arborway yard, kitty corner from the Forest Hills T stop, handles buses on routes across Boston's southwestern neighborhoods aimed at getting riders to and from the Forest Hills Orange Line and commuter-rail stops, as well as crosstown lines to other parts of the city, including Ashmont, South Bay, Nubian Square and Cleveland Circle.


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Really wish they'd sell this tract to a developer who could put in a shopping center (with a full-sized middle-end grocery store) there, and relocate the bus yard further toward the outskirts somewhere.


Reducing the amount of time empty buses are driving back and forth down Hyde Park Ave or Washington St or Blue Hill Ave seems like it's creating problems for residents in other parts of the city. I'd be in favor of developing some of the yard though if feasible.


So, yeah, this is probably not the optimal location. Although if I were given 18 acres of land next to a major transit node, my first priority would be a ton of housing, although I would not say no to a ground floor supermarket (as long as it didn't come with a sea of parking). My kingdom for a Market Basket in JP!

Anyway … the optimal location, I think, for a bus yard is on American Legion Highway just south of Morton Street. The state owns land there and currently leases it to a landscape supply company. I'm sure that's a fine business, but the state basically currently owns a low-rent mulch pile. This site is more than 1000 feet from any residence (so, not exactly in anyone's backyard), has easy access to American Legion Highway and Morton Street to serve bus routes (Arborway currently operates a lot of routes in Dorchester and Mattapan, so the "deadhead" mileage would probably be similar if not better) and is even on an electrical conduit that Neversource put in a few years back and they might be able to use for electric power for bus charging (if not tapping into the 375kV feed, using the conduit to access the Hyde Park switching station).

This would allow the T to sell or lease the entire 18 acre parcel at Arborway, which has a lot of value, locate Shattuck facilities outside the park and closer to Forest Hills, and give the Shattuck site back to the city to make back into a park. In the game of musical chairs, the garden supply company would have to find somewhere else to move, but I'd much rather have that out in the 'burbs ("outskirts") somewhere than a bus garage.

This, of course, would require the City, T and DCAMM to all sit down at a table and hash things out, so it's far from a slam dunk, because there are egos and inertia involved.


If, as the Emerald Necklace Conservancy puts it, the issue is park access from the Dorchester/Mattapan/Roxbury sides of the park, why are we talking about converting a parcel that is closest to the Forest Hills Cemetery and furthest from any of the communities bordering the park? Conversion of the golf course to a 9-hole course would free up far more parkland for free community use, yet nobody is proposing that. Housing and mixed commercial use makes far more sense for the location if it isn't going to be a bus yard. The Shattuck site seems to work extremely well for its intended use of providing health services, without majorly impacting any nearby communities because of its location at the edge of the park.


Because it was a park until 1949 when the legislature made it into a hospital and parking lot.

That would be amazing if the arborway busyard could be moved elsewhere to unlock that land for true development. And then maybe build even higher. The housing around Forest Hills really should be way taller than it is right now. It’s got great transit access to most places in Boston, and bike access towards downtown. Restaurants are there already. Some night life. Only thing I really see people complain about it missing is full-service grocery, but Happy Market is less than half a mile away. Stop and Shop in Hyde Square is 10 minutes away by bike or T. Target and Village Market less than 10 minutes by bus or bike in the other direction.

There’s still a decent amount of open lots and surface lots to develop in the walking distance area of Forest Hills. Hell, take out the part of the parking lot that’s not under the busway and build there too. Make it a real city neighborhood.

There is more interest in the land usage along American Legion Highway. While the landscaping business might not seem to be the greatest, it is kind of in keeping with the sylvan desires of many of the stakeholders. I mean, with the composting it just smells like the country (or something like that.)

I support the Arborway yard, mainly because it is still doing what it was doing over a century ago, albeit in another form. Pushing the buses out to Readville (my guess as to where people would suggest putting it if pushed on the matter) isn't the best idea as far as keeping the stock close to the service goes.

We can't have a bus garage here, we need to maintain the pile of rotting mulch and compost.

Maybe we should be less concerned about the smells along ALH and more concerned about building thousands of units of housing people desperately need.

I'm just saying it's less of a slam dunk than you think it is. The kind of people who dislike the bus yard in the old trolley yard are the same kind of people that would be up in arms with a use like this along ALH. That's all I'm saying. The key difference is that the old trolley yard hasn't been anything but vehicle storage for over a century, while American Legion was designed as a parkway.

Read : I want to have a shopping center there to serve my needs. Environmental Injustice should be committed elsewhere owing that I need to buy avocados easier.

Please go piss up a rope. The T was there a long time before you and will be there a long time after you shuffle off this earth.


The mbta themselves said they were only going to stay there temporarily. Guess you are a fan of lying. This site is a block from a T stop so housing makes sense. They can put this parking lot somewhere else instead of wasting a valuable transit oriented opportunity. These buses are mostly used by non JPers so why should no one else deal with this?

"The T said..."
The T also said that they were going to restore E service to Arborway.
'Destroy crucial and well-situated transit infrastructure in the name of a "valuable transit-related opportunity" ' - the Uhub parallel to cutting down all the trees and putting them in a tree museum.


"They can put the parking lot somewhere else" - Typical arrogance from a spoiled trust fund kid about where to put the dirty laundry. Do your parents still have tradesman use the side or rear door at their house(s).

"These buses are mostly used by non JPers so why should no one else deal with this?" - Your arrogance is breathtaking. Are you sure your account wasn't hacked by some Trumpie?

As Kinopio is wont to point out, motor vehicles are bad.

Of course, he never rides the bus. He's above such activities. Too much risk of running into the kind of people who, well, ride the bus. The ability of bus riders to have reliable transit be damned. We need to return the location to it's previous role of... housing street using mass transit vehicles?

It's not the buses that Kinopio doesn't like but rather the poor, brown people who ride on them into 'his' neighborhood.

The present bus facility opened as a "temporary" facility in 2004 in order to introduce CNG buses into the fleet. The original old Arborway bus garage had closed in 1981 and the routes were "temporarily" moved to the old Bartlett St. garage near Dudley St.until a new garage could be built at Arborway. The Bartlett garage could not accomodate the new CNG fleet then on order at the time (ceilings were too low), so they needed to build something quick and cheap to accomodate the new CNG fleet. They chose to build a "temporary" facility back at Arborway as that was the location where they wanted to eventually build a permanent facility anyway, plus since Green Line service had ended, they could tear down the old Green Line shops, build the temporary bus garage there, and still have room to build the permanent facility later without disrupting bus operations (which is what they are finally proposing now)

Or, we could be ambitious, and do both. For example, build the bus yard at ground level, or even below ground, and housing/shops/whatever on top. The T can value-capture from the real estate above.

Other comments are missing the point on this a bit. The objection is not about personal nuisance or convenience or aesthetic preference, but about not wasting an opportunity to improve the T. The T's effectiveness as a transit system is dependent on having stuff near stations. This is an opportunity to put more stuff near the station, within the distance of a very short walk. More housing there = more people that can use the T to go elsewhere. More shops there = more places that people can take T to from elsewhere.

It's also important for the bus yard to be close to where the buses will be. And it's important for T employees to be able to use the T to get to the yard.

...when I first read the linked page (Bus Facility Modernization), I thought this was a shift by the T away from the plan to make the already-electric trolleybuses at North Cambridge the first BEB replacements. Then I realized the North Cambridge work is just on the main Bus Electrification page, not here.

For a moment, I thought the dramatic shift in Boston's transportation policy was already knocking some sense into the T's bus electrification plans, but I suppose not.


Maybe they'll finally pick up the trash in the lot while they're at it. It's about time this process started. The real question is why it will take the better part of the decade to build one facility?

Would be nice if they could put up some nicer fencing too. The whole area looks like a blighted part of detroit.

The T says the new buses will be cleaner than the current CNG models and, at 60 feet, will be longer than the present buses, which it says will let them carry more buses and add additional service to Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester.

By this, do you mean the buses will carry more passengers, or will the yard be large enough to contain a lot of 60 foot buses?

This is going to be a garage for battery-powered buses, which should be very quiet, with near zero emissions. Why not build a bus garage at or below grade and then build housing on top of it? Sure, the cost of the garage structure would be a lot higher, but there would be a ton of money to be made from a development on top of it. If you're really smart, you build retail into the ground level of the structure facing Washington/Arborway and have the buses enter/exit from the yard side.

But the management of the T isn't smart, so none of this can happen.

The battery-operated buses will still have a diesel component to be used for heating and other necessities. They are not 100% battery. Think... hybrid. You cannot have diesel operating below grade. Even with high-end ventilation systems there would be concerns for carbon monoxide to rise above into housing.

I would not be surprised if the diesel units wind up also charging the batteries at some point not unlike the Silver Line. The Silver Line actually has electric motors that operate on the overhead 600 vole supply until the wires end. After that the diesel generator provides electric power to move the bus the rest of the way.

Basically the battery is replacing the overhead electric wires.

Toe-may-toe... toe-mah-toe

Lots of reading between the lines to be explored in their proposal. Great if it works, but understand what the drawbacks will be and what their fallback plan is.

The Arborway bus yard has been in place since the early 1900s. It first serves streetcars going to and from various wheel spoke destinations. At one time and for a number of years it even had a ramp track in place that connected with the overhead steel elevated structure that eventually became the Orange Line. This allowed repairs to be done at Arborway shops before the dedicated repair shops for elevated rail cars was built on land on Hyde Park Ave opposite Walk Hill Street... now many apartments.

The yard continued to be the terminus for streetcars and buses. Vehicles never showed Forest hills as a destination since a couple of thousand feet more was the Arborway yard and that was the terminus for all of the lines emanating from there.

There was never a designation for the Arborway yard to be "temporary." They are there for the long term and have no plans to move. People who have moved into the apartment developments knew what they were moving next to. If they were told the yard was moving, the real estate agent lied heavily.

The only thing "temporary" is the CNG fueling station. The MBTA wanted it to be permanent but Boston Fire Department would not issue a permanent license to operate. They only issue renewable temp permits. The MBTA wanted to convert all of its bus fleets to CNG due to the emissions improvements, but no other city or town would give them permits -- even tempt ones. So the only place the MBTA can refuel a CNG bus is at Forest Hills (hence the dedicated fleet), at the Cabot Shops in South Boston, and the Silver Line Shops in Roxbury. The latter 2 are smaller in capabilities. The few CNG buses at the Everett Shops used for testing and training have to have a CNG truck come on site to refuel those handful of vehicles.

That bus and train yard would still be servicing streetcars if the MBTA had restored the Green Line as a court order had required from the Heath Street loop to Arborway. The loop now used by the Silverline some time back on the Arborway/Morton Street side of the station actually has streetcar tracks buried underneath the surface asphalt and that was always visible until the most-recent rebuild. Streetcars would have an option to loop there or go into the Arborway yard for service and storage. They weaseled out of the court order and now people in JP are trying to lobby for the line's restoration.

There have been people advocating the yard be relocated to state land down by the American Legion Highway bridge off Morton Street but there is no infrastructure there, i.e. sewer, water, power, gas, etc. Also consider that a 100-year plus bus and train yard that existed before any EPA laws existed may have a lot of sins resting just under the asphalt. Any building there of any nature may require some soil mitigation for petroleum, and lots of other nastys. As it is, this new electric facility will have to address that likely.

As to it permanently serving electric buses, don't plan on that. The test units failed most of the tests under stress. They required long recharge intervals. Use for AC and heat as well as traffic idle times used up battery power at unexpected rates. If the planned purchase for battery buses is what this yard will serve, we should be looking at the reliability of the planned vehicles. Efforts by the T to obtain other types of vehicles have been stymied by many rules, regulations, and permitting issues. In the end their only choice to keep people moving was to get diesel buses. This could happen again.

So anyone thinking that this location was to be "temporary" is operating under a false assumption. Only the fueling system is and was temporary. The area is zoned heavy industrial and that is what will remain there.

Are the streetcar loop rails still there at the north end of Forest Hills Station?
I wish they were, but I thought they got ripped out during the Casey overpass/surface road project. They were ripped out of most of Centre St and South St a few years ago, weren't they?

When they removed the Casey Overpass, they also removed the tracks that would have looped back to the former Arborway yard. As for the tracks on South and Centre, they were most likely paved over instead of ripped out in case the T brought back the Green Line trolleys.

I can see the MBTA converting Quincy to battery electric buses first because their garage is the oldest in the system, but you're right - if the technology isn't mature enough to support full electric, the MBTA may make Quincy a diesel-electric garage instead.

The CNGs won't be retired until at least 2028; the MBTA may convert Arborway to diesel electric buses, able to run on extended battery power, until the 100% electric fleet technology has improved.

North Cambridge, who has run trackless trolleys since the 1930s, is another candidate, but converting from trackless trolleys to battery electric buses may run into political resistance from residents in Cambridge, Belmont and Watertown. Those towns have fought time and again to keep the trackless trolleys in place (despite that the trackless trolleys don't run on Sundays).