MBTA considers complete replacement of Green Line fleet
By State House News Service | January 12, 2016, 6:24 EST
BOSTON — MBTA staff is considering a complete replacement of the Green Line fleet in the next decade or so, a roughly $1 billion procurement that generated some words of caution from the T’s control board on Monday.
“Right now I think staff’s recommendation for the Green Line fleet in all would be that we would do one single procurement, one large procurement and replace all of these three fleets,” MBTA Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gonneville told the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday.
Gonneville said the whole project would cost about $1 billion with delivery in the “mid 2020s.”
The MBTA has one fleet of 86 Green Line cars from the mid-1980s, another group of 17 cars from 1997, and 94 so-called Type 8 Green Line cars, which are only about 12-years-old but present a “maintenance challenge,” Gonneville said.
“I don’t want the urge for faster, better, cheaper, more reliable to override a responsible, structured break-in period for all these new vehicles, because I think we’re paying for some decisions that were made in haste in the past,” said Steven Poftak, a member of the control board who has focused on capital needs. Poftak also expressed concern about a T document that he said suggests “we’re going to pull the trigger on a Green Line replacement fleet within the next six to nine months.”
The Green Line trolleys are far from the only fleet in need of some attention. The 10 trolleys that run on the Mattapan Line first entered service in 1945, and Poftak said the need to build parts for the old vehicles in-house creates a major cost even for a small fleet.
“At times we actually need to reach out to trolley museums to get components and parts to be able to keep these vehicles in revenue service,” Gonneville said.
The Federal Transit Administration recently faulted the MBTA for lacking a “comprehensive and overall maintenance plan for Heavy and Light Rail Transit.” Gonneville’s presentation tracked the general state of all 639 subway and trolley cars – the most modern of which is the Blue Line fleet, circa 2007-2009 – as well as various bus fleets. There are a total of 991 buses in the active fleet, according to the MBTA.
Each car in the entire Red Line fleet has enough mileage on average to have traveled to the moon and back several times. The oldest cars in the Red Line fleet date back 45 years and have traveled an average of 2.4 million miles, according to Gonneville. According to a transportation official the other two fleets of Red Line cars, the youngest of which is 21 years old, has average mileage of 1.3 million to 1.4 million.
The moon orbits 239,000 miles from Earth, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The largest Chinese railcar manufacturer, CRRC, won the contract to build 132 new Red Line cars and 152 new Orange Line cars and has set up shop on a large lot in Springfield.
Control board member Brian Lang questioned whether the new Red and Orange line cars combined with work on the track infrastructure would allow for more frequent trains.
Gonneville said the track work combined with boosting the Orange Line fleet to 152 cars, up from 120, would “get us down to about a four/four-and-a-half-minute headway.”
Increased capacity on the Red Line, meanwhile, would require more work than merely the new cars, along with power and signal upgrades, according to Gonneville.
— Written by Andy Metzger
Copyright State House News Service