Electric shock: Test fleet of battery-powered buses hits Williamsburg

Electric shock: Test fleet of battery-powered buses hits Williamsburg
Metropolitan Transportation Authority

They’re leading the charge.

Environmentally friendly people movers started rolling through Williamsburg last week as part of a state-led initiative to modernize the city’s bus system. But the tiny test fleet of ten electric buses is not enough to cut down on the dangerous toxins spewed by the vehicles’ gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting counterparts, a local councilman said.

“This is a great first step, but we can aim bigger,” said Councilman Rafael Espinal (D–Bushwick). “Aiming bigger will improve our city’s air quality and drive us toward realizing our carbon-reduction goals.”

Some buses in the new test fleet will silently shuttle straphangers riding the B32, which travels from Williamsburg to Queens, while others will exclusively serve commuters in that borough and on the distant isle of Manhattan.

The gas-free people movers on the B32 line can juice up at an “en-route” charging station installed at the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza transit hub at the Brooklyn foot of the span, or at their main depot in Queens, according to Gov. Cuomo.

The electric buses, which also boast wireless-internet access and USB ports, are part of a three-year pilot program, after which the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority may purchase a full-time fleet of 60 zero-emission vehicles, the governor said.

The state’s Commander in Chief announced the deployment of the new battery-powered people movers on Jan. 8, on the heels of city and state officials’ release of an alternative-transit plan during the impending closure of the L train’s underwater Brooklyn-to-Manhattan tunnel.

That proposal included three new bus routes along Williamsburg streets, but some residents and pols demanded transit leaders first find vehicles that generate less pollution than the recently purchased fleet of diesel-powered people movers set to pack the roads during the 15-month shutdown starting in April 2019.

Environment-loving locals will have a chance to share their concerns at series of upcoming meetings about the looming “L-pocalypse,” where city and state transit honchos will further discuss their plan for straphangers.

The first community meeting is at Progress High School (850 Grand St. between Bushwick Avenue and Waterbury Street) on Jan. 24 at 5 pm. The next is at the Williamsburg Community Center (195 Graham Ave. between Stagg and Scholes streets) on Feb. 8 at 5pm.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.