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The final curtain: Boston without dual-mode trolleybuses

Dual-mode articulated bus operating in electric trolleybus mode in the tunnel | © Thomas Douce

85 years after the opening of the first route, trolleybus service in Boston also ended on the last remaining section of track through the South Boston Piers Transitway tunnel of the so-called Silver Lines on 30 June 2023. This was the last refuge of electric trolley operation after the last conventional trolley lines in the Harvard district had already been abandoned last year (we had reported here: https://www.urban-transport-magazine.com/en/boston-no-more-trolley-buses-in-cambridge/).

There, after a major wave of closures had included most lines of the once extensive network by 1963, a few services had been able to hold on, officially justified by the use of a short tunnel section to access Harvard metro station. It came quite as a surprise that in 2004, trolleybus overhead over a length of approx. 2.5 km was erected elsewhere in the city. Here, too, a tunnel section was the reason for the use of electric operation, namely in the newly created South Boston Piers Transitway tunnel for the Silver Lines SL1, 2, and 3 as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) solution. 32 Neoplan/Skoda Electric dual-mode articulated buses were used there, equipped with both diesel and trolleybus drive. They were numbered 1101 to 1132.

Connecting to the overhead | © Thomas Douce
SL1, SL2, SL3 | © MBTA Press
Entering the tunnel section – May 2022 | © Thomas Douce

The MBTA decided to replace both the classic trolleybuses in Cambridge and the dual buses basically for cost reasons – in Cambridge, battery buses are to be used from 2024/25, while hybrid articulated buses operate on the three Silver Lines SL1, 2, and 3. The delivery of the hybrid buses began in early 2023, and since mid-March only the dual buses equipped with special luggage storage areas (originally 14 units) were used anyway – on the SL1 to the international airport. In case of repairs, these buses were already gradually withdrawn. The electric trolleybus service came to an end on 30 June 2023, with the last dual-mode bus returning to the depot at the end of service in the early hours of the following morning.

We had reported in detail on the controversy of the closure of trolleybus operations in Boston here:

Trolley booms almost down of the roof at a tunnel stop – May 2022 | © Thomas Douce
Dual-mode trolleybus 1119 in diesel-mode at Logan International Airport | © Thomas Douce
© Thomas Douce

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Mathew K Thomas
Mathew K Thomas
9 months ago

Big step backwards. What a pity.

Harold parry
Harold parry
1 month ago

I heard that Boston may bring back trolley busses in about 2 yrs and put up new overhead wires & modernize it more. I don’t feel this will happen. This is a big step backwards because the electric busses that plug in overhead to chg will take to long to chg and will loose about 20 percent of electric which is bad and will delay the schedules & mess everything up. Good luck Boston you’ll need it. Trolleybusses have continuous electric power all the time. They did not investigate everything before Boston decided to get rid of trolleybusses.


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