Posts Tagged ‘toxic MBTA buses’

Fumes in MBTA buses: significant progress

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

I met several months ago with MBTA management to present my concerns about toxic fumes in certain MBTA buses. Thank you, again, to State Senator Will Brownsberger and his  Legislative Counsel and Policy Advisor, Michael Buckley, for making that meeting happen.

I am pleased to report that the MBTA took my concerns seriously, investigated them, and took corrective action which they hope will fix the problem.

I met today for a second time with Jeffrey Gonneville, the MBTA’s Chief Mechanical Officer, and Troy Ellerbee, Director of Bus Maintenance, and they filled me in on their progress. Read on for the details.

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Unfiltered diesel exhaust from MBTA buses

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

In my meeting today with the MBTA about the air quality inside T buses, I suggested that the fact that we sometimes see exhaust smoke coming from underneath the buses, despite the fact that the buses’ exhaust pipes are on top of the buses, might indicate a broken exhaust system which might explain how exhaust fumes are getting into bus passenger compartments. As evidence of this, I pointed to an article by Doug Tillberg on TransitBoston.com.

In response, the T employees at the meeting explained to me that it’s actually normal for exhaust smoke to come from underneath the buses, because there are actually two engines in the back of the bus that burn diesel fuel, one of which exhausts out the pipe at the top of the bus, and the other out from underneath.

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Meeting with MBTA about bad air in buses

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Today, I met with the MBTA to discuss my concerns about poor indoor air quality (IAQ) inside some T buses. I am extremely grateful to Michael Buckley, Sen. William Brownsberger’s Legislative Counsel and Policy Advisor, for arranging the meeting and attending with me.

The following T employees were present: Jeffrey Gonneville, Chief Mechanical Officer; Dave Carney, Director of Bus Operations; Troy Ellerbee, Director of Bus Maintenance; Erik Scheier, Project Director; and one other person whose name I’m sorry to say I didn’t write down and can’t recall. (If he reads this, I hope he will forgive me. If I am going to keep doing this kind of thing, I really need to get better at remembering people’s names, which I’m really awful at.)

I learned several things at the meeting, and I obtained commitments from Jeffrey Gonneville to take concrete steps to look into my concerns. I wish I’d learned more, and I wish the T had committed to do more, but progress has been made.

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MBTA responds to my public records request

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Last month, I sent the MBTA a public records request, trying to obtain more information about how aware they are of the problem of air quality problems in the passenger compartments of their buses, and what they are doing about the problem.

The Massachusetts Public Records Law requires “custodians of records” like the MBTA to respond within ten days to such requests. It took the MBTA 26 days to respond, which they did only after I appealed to the supervisor of records in the Secretary of State’s office Correction: I mailed my appeal to the Secretary of State’s office on February 11, and I received the response below from the MBTA on February 12, so it appears that they although they were quite late in responding to my request, they did respond before my appeal was brought to their attention. The job of the supervisor of records is essentially to force custodians to obey the law. This is necessary because custodians regularly violate the public records law until the supervisor is involved, and sometimes even then. This sorry state of affairs persists because there are no penalties for violating the law (stupid!).

Anyway, here is the response I received from the MBTA yesterday (click here to see it in a separate window), followed by the letter I sent back to them this morning. (more…)

Public Records Request to the MBTA about air quality in buses

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I just sent the following letter to the MBTA.


January 14, 2013

Beverly A. Scott
General Manager, MBTA
10 Park Plaza, Suite 3910
Boston, MA 02116

Re: Massachusetts Public Records Request

Dear Ms. Scott:

This is a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M.G.L. Chapter 66, Section 10).

I am requesting that I be provided a copy of the following records:

  • All complaints and inquiries received by the MBTA from passengers in the past year, through any medium including but not limited to telephone, U.S. Mail, facsimile, electronic mail, Web form submission, and Twitter, concerning air-quality issues (e.g., engine fumes) in MBTA buses. If such complaints and inquiries are consistently logged in a single computerized tracking system, then a spreadsheet, report or other document produced from said system, including the details of the relevant complaints, is sufficient and indeed preferable for satisfying this request.

MBTA buses are poisoning passengers

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Have you ever noticed a strong smell of diesel fumes in an MBTA bus, most strongly at the back of the bus?

The smell comes from diesel exhaust leaking into the passenger compartment of the bus. It is extremely toxic. Its short-term effects include headache, dizziness, light-headedness, and nausea. Long-term effects include cardiovascular disease, cardiopulmonary disease, and cancer.

This only happens on diesel buses, not on the buses fulled by chilled natural gas, and it only happens on some of the diesel buses. I don’t know whether this is because the T uses different models of diesel bus and only some models have the problem, or because the buses exhibiting this problem are broken and need to be fixed.

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