Electric bus use during L train shutdown pushed by officials

Officials are pushing the MTA to incorporate electric buses to compensate for the 2019 L train shutdown.
Officials are pushing the MTA to incorporate electric buses to compensate for the 2019 L train shutdown. Photo Credit: Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

When the L train shutdown comes in 2019, elected officials and advocates want to make sure the MTA doesn’t replace greener train service with diesel-guzzling buses.

Brooklyn Councilmembers Rafael Espinal and Stephen Levin will join the environmental nonprofit Sierra Club on Tuesday in pushing the MTA to use electric buses to shuttle straphangers around once L train service to and through Manhattan is shuttered for superstorm Sandy-related repairs.

“I’ve been working closely with the Sierra Club on switching to electric buses, and we believe this is a prime opportunity for the MTA to introduce a pilot project locally,” said Espinal, ahead of the rally at 8:30 a.m. on the corner of Driggs and North 7th streets, outside of the Bedford Avenue L train stop.

The ultimate goal, Espinal said, is to push the MTA to where the entire fleet of buses is electric.

The city’s Department of Transportation and the MTA hope to release a draft plan as early as late spring on how to move the 225,000 daily L train riders who rely on the line between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“Buses will be a major component of alternative service plans and we are continuing to work with DOT on what that will look like,” said MTA spokeswoman Beth DeFalco in an email.

As of September, the MTA’s fleet includes 5,853 buses dependent on either ultra-low-sulfur diesel, hybrid diesel-electric or compressed natural gas fuel sources, according to the MTA. Of those, 3,436 buses run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel, while 1,672 buses are hybrids and another 744 run on CNG.

“There’s already high asthma rates along the line in neighborhoods like East New York, Brownsville and Williamsburg, which are overburdened by truck traffic,” said Levin, who called the idea “totally wise and prudent.”

On Monday, the MTA took its first steps toward fully electric buses. The agency’s Transit Committee approved a $4 million, three-year lease on five electric buses and charging stations.

The buses and chargers are expected to be delivered before the end of 2017 to the Grand Avenue Bus Depot in Queens for a two-year test pilot. Six chargers will be stationed in the depot with an “en route” charging station to be installed at the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza in Brooklyn.