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Trolleybus city: Boston [USA]

General Information

articulated trolleybus 1113 goes out of the tunnel, taken by Gunter Mackinger, 27.07.08
City: Boston (569.165 citizens)
Country: USA
Opened: 11.04.1936
Lines: 6
Vehicles: 60 Trolleybuses
Operator: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)
Remarks: Beside the Trolleybusnet in Cambridge District (routes 71-73 and 77A for trolleybuses, which are going into depot), there are three, sinse march 2009 two DUO-Bus-routes in the District Waterfront since late 2004, the approximately 2 km-long tunnel is electrically driven.

News for Boston

Date Headline
31.08.2018 New route SL3 launched
28.03.2017 Renewed trolleybus services on route 73 in Cambridge
07.12.2015 Modernized trolleybuses back in service
15.12.2014 Modernization of DUO buses
25.05.2009 Changes at the Silverline
15.04.2008 Last over 30 year old Flyer-trolleybuses still in service
16.06.2005 The Boston “artic” on the streets of Pilsen

Two 12 m-trolleybuses in service on the silverline, the articulated trolleybuses were not delivered fiully by opening the tunnel, Foto: MBTA


line route length frequency1
71 Harvard Station - Mt. Auburn St. - Watertown Square km 10/13
72 Harvard Station - Concord Ave. - Huron Ave. km 20/30
73 Harvard Station - Trapelo Road - Waverley Sq. km 5/13
77A North Cambridge Garage - Harvard km ca20x tgl.
SL1 South Station - Waterfront - Logan Airport km 10/10
SL2 South Station - Waterfront - Boston Marine Industrial Park km 5/10

1 frequency: minutes peak / off peak

Lines: 6


numbers quant. vehicle delivery
1101-1132 32 Neoplan/Skoda 18m DUO-Bus 2004-06
4101-4128 28 Neoplan/Skoda 12m 2003-4

Vehicles: 60 trolleybuses

The Flyer-trolleybuses (here: 4044) had doors on the driver´s side, Foto: Wim van der Plaats


The MBTA has operated the regional trolleybus system since 1964. Historically speaking, the four core routes are formed of lines 71, 72, 73 and 77A, which connect Harvard Station in the city center of Cambridge with the neighboring communities of Watertown and Belmont, serving a predominantly academic and residential area.The power lines are electrified with 600 V DC and the trolleybuses are commonly referred to as "trackless trolleys", not least since they actually replaced trams on these routes in various stages between the late 1930s and 50s.

The contemporary fleet in Cambridge is formed of 28 single units that are 12 m long and were supplied by Neoplan USA and Skoda starting in 2004. These are numbered as 4101-4128 and replaced 50 older Flyer buses that were first introduced in 1976 and completely withdrawn by 2008. Due to the structural alignment in the underground terminus at Harvard Station, where the island platforms are on the left-hand side of the vehicle, all trolleys in Cambridge are fitted with doors on both sides.

Since 2004, the MBTA has also operated the partially electrified BRT system which is locally known as the Silver Line. It connects Logan International Airport with the waterfront, city center, South Station rail hub, as well as the Chinatown and Roxbury neighborhoods. In total the Silver Line has four sub-lines numbered SL1, SL2, SL4 and SL5, but electric services only operate in the dedicated, purpose-built tunnel along the South Boston waterfront. As such, actually only SL1 and SL2 are routed through the tunnel and deploy dual-mode trolleybuses. These 32 articulated units were delivered by Neoplan USA and Skoda, the first of the series entering revenue service in December 2004. Together with the "trackless trolleys" supplied to Cambridge, these modern vehicles were the first low-floor trolleybuses in the United States.

The MBTA is presently planning a northbound extension of the Silver Line well beyond Logan International Airport and as far as Chelsea. If the construction schedule can be held, the scheme is slated to be completed by 2017 and would likely increase the number of required dual mode buses.

Generally speaking, the present MBTA fleet size of 60 trolleybuses is a far cry from the huge number to electric buses that once operated in Boston and Cambridge, when the trolleybus system was at its zenith in 1952 and no less than 463 units were in service!

Today, the Cambridge routes and the Silver Line in Boston are not physically linked, they are merely two separate sub-systems within the vast MBTA umbrella.