To the editor:
A couple of years ago, CATA checked out an electric bus, but the vehicle couldn’t make it around the island on one charge. Three weeks ago, CATA tried another electric bus made in Lancaster and Los Angeles. This time, the bus could hold a charge for eight hours and then required a couple of hours to be re-charged. They were $2,000 to $3,000 more expensive, but if Gov. Charlie Baker had the whole state switch to electric buses instead of diesel, I’m sure the costs would be less. CATA is not perfect, but at least they are caring about the state the world is in and trying to do the right thing. The technology is finally there, and if Massachusetts switches over to electric buses for the whole state, the whole country would follow. This is a game changer!
I have a major problem with the development of the Mass Health Transportation PT1 System. CATA had to go from using local drivers to following a computerized system with drivers from Lynn and the Merrimack Valley. A couple of years ago, I needed a medical ride to Pentucket Medical Center in Newburyport. They booked me with a company coming from the Merrimack Valley. I was stranded at the medical center for five hours. The company gave me their fax number instead, and I couldn’t get a hold of anybody at Mass Health or CATA. I’m 70 years old, and I wasn’t about to walk home from Newburyport in a snowstorm. I couldn’t get a hold of my family, so I called my friends in Rockport and they drove out from Rockport and got me, which by that time it was getting dark. Six months later, I waited three-to-four hours again with the same company. Or I got picked up in Rockport to go to Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, and the driver didn’t know where they were going (coming from Lynn and not speaking English very well). This is crazy when we have Beauport in Gloucester and RiteRoute in Danvers. I’m letting my PT1 forms expire. If I can’t get a ride to my medical appointments over the bridge from my family or friends, I’ll have to reschedule or cancel my appointment. I can’t be wasting all that gas, creating all that pollution and being frustrated beyond belief.
Mass Health is putting the economy before the ecology. All the money in the world isn’t going to help us if we do ourselves in. Gov. Baker is dreaming if he thinks he can reach a carbon neutral state in five years, unless he gets a handle on Mass Health’s transportation system and the transportation systems of other Massachusetts organizations that do not have their priorities in order. Besides fixing the PT1 and related systems, he will need to switch to electric buses and trains.
More than nine years ago, I lived on Henderson Court near the train station in Rockport, where they docked the last trains for the night. Because of the loud noise of the idling trains, I didn’t get more than four hours of sleep per night for seven years. They would be revving their engines from 4 to 9 a.m. If they had a sick locomotive, they would rev the engine all night long – giving me no sleep. I wiped the diesel soot off my window sills every two days. It was in my fans, and of course it was in my lungs. I know that my smoking didn’t help, but the diesel exhaust pushed me over the edge. I developed COPD, hence needing the medical rides to Newburyport. My symptoms have been arrested since I moved to Pigeon Cove. Now I hear they are going to get six new diesel locomotives when they should have laid the infrastructure for electric locomotives eight years ago. Meanwhile, where is the “hush house” the MBTA promised years ago? It took a while to change the Boston-New York-Philadelphia-Washington, D.C. run from diesel to electric. They should have been working on the switch from diesel to electric out here eight years ago. What are they waiting for?
Look, I don’t like change any more than you do. We’ve got to change to electric engines on all three modes of transportation – trains, buses and cars – or we will not get a handle on climate change to save us. Already, we have weirder weather with record-breaking heat waves, massive fires in the West and long-term effects such as ice caps melting and sea levels rising. And it’s not going to get any better. We’ve got to deal with all this now, not sometime in the future when it is too late. If the United States goes electric, the world will follow. I’ve done the homework. Please take the ball and roll with it. Talk to people who know more than I do and care about the world we live in. As Bob Dylan said, “It doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”