MBTA Prepares Changes to Red and Orange Lines
Governor Deval Patrick Announces Plans to Upgrade T Cars Over the Next Five Years
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 22:10
This past Tuesday at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce meeting, Governor Deval Patrick announced plans to upgrade decades-old Orange and Red Line trains and equipment. Patrick specified that the upgrades will be funded from money dedicated to fixing Massachusetts’s transportation infrastructure, as outlined in a proposal passed last July that allocates $800 million a year to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).
Based on the appearance (i.e., wood paneling inside the Orange Line trains) of some of the cars in the fleets of Red and Orange Line trains currently in use, it may not be surprising that some of the vehicles date back to the late 1960s. Some of the Red Line vehicles are 44 years old, while several Orange Line cars are 32 years old. These trains will be replaced by a new set of cars, however—120 Orange Line cars and 74 Red Line cars—and will feature more seating and standing spaces for riders. These new cars will feature wider electrically operated doors, as well as updated passenger information and announcement systems.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Patrick introduced the plan and explained why it will be beneficial to the MBTA system and its riders, saying, “[We will] replace decades-old Orange and Red Line trains with new and modern equipment, equipment that will be built in Massachusetts,” while justifying, “Few things are more frustrating than being stuck on the Pike on your way to work, or waiting for an overcrowded Red Line train at the end of the day. Being constantly late because your commute is inconvenient and unreliable is both frustrating and compromising. It is critical for us to invest in the means to move people … more conveniently around the state.”
Coinciding with Patrick’s announcement, the MBTA issued requests for proposals for the $1.3 billion procurement to replace the Red Line and Orange Line cars. The MBTA expects to award a contract for the cars by the winter of 2014-15, which includes the condition that the final assembly of the cars will take place in Massachusetts. Orange Line car delivery is scheduled to begin in the winter 2018-19 and Red Line car delivery in fall 2019. Delivery will follow extensive but required pilot train testing.
Frequent Red and Orange Line passengers reacted to news of the upgrades. Orange Line passenger Brian Liberator told Boston Magazine that upgrading the trains “would be helpful,” while another regular Orange Line rider, Latoyha Brown, told the magazine that the improvements would be worth the wait. “That would be awesome,” Brown said. “If they put more trains on the track, that would be great,” she said. “These are some of the oldest trains.”
Rider Brittany Boisclaii, however, told Boston Magazine that she does not think the current Orange Line cars are that bad, but this is only in comparison to the Green Line, which she recently stopped using in favor of the Orange Line. “I used to take the Green Line,” Boisclaii said, “It was the worst thing ever.” She does agree that the trains of all lines could “use some sprucing up,” noting that more space would be beneficial.
Patrick also announced at Tuesday’s meeting that the state has plans to implement a $250 million transition to open-road tolling, and to rebuild the route of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Allston.
Open-road tolling facilities, and the elimination of toll booths, would allow cars to travel through tolls at normal highway speeds using E-ZPass transponders and license plate recognition cameras to bill drivers by mail.
Tolls on the Tobin Memorial Bridge are expected to be converted to this all-electronic tolling method by the coming spring, while construction of the open-road tolling facilities will begin next summer on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Patrick expects to face challenges with building the technology to identify the license plates and send out bills to vehicle owners. State officials have estimated that the switch will save the state millions over the years, and reduce congestion as well as harmful emissions from idling cars.