Thursday, March 3, 2011

We know the Commuter Rail has problems - but when will the T buy new Orange and Red Line cars?

This morning with the temperature around 10 degrees with a wind chill below zero, the Orange Line didn't want to play. This is routine whenever it gets cold and for good reason - These trains were built between 1979-81.
To put that in perspective, these trains ran on the Washington Street Elevated.

1985 - courtesy petespix75 on Flickr

The current Orange Line trains were built by the same manufacturer who built the retired Blue Line trains that were built a year earlier. It is time to retire them and send a few cars to the trolley museum in Maine where they can mingle with other retired T cars.
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority 0559Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority 01179Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority 0547

The T released a video showing the problems the older trains face

I really don't understand why new Orange Line cars were not ordered when the Blue Line new cars were but what's done is done...or in this case NOT done.

Things are a little better on the Red Line but there are problems there as well.

68 of the Red Line cars were built in 1969-70 when the Red Line was expanded to Quincy (and later Braintree) - 46 more were built between 1987-9 and 84 cars were built in 1993-4. The Red Line which is by far the busiest of the heavy rail lines also has the most mileage.

The Green Line has 80 Kinki-Sharyo cars that were built in 1987-8 (with 14 more bought a decade later) and 90 of the infamous Breda cars that first showed up in 1999 and the last one arriving in 2007.

Boston is not alone with problems with Breda as San Francisco, Cleveland and Los Angeles have had issues as well ( but not as severe as ours )

To be fair Breda says the design that the MBTA wanted was questionable to begin with.

Now why the MBTA decided to award the contract to Breda in the first place when Kinki-Sharyo gave the system a reliable vehicle is classic Massachusetts insanity.

Kinki just built the cars for the new rail line to the Seattle airport and everybody loves them

Here is my problem with going to the 'low-bidder' - you get what you pay for and usually there are more costs involved in the end. Nobody complains about the Kinki Green Line cars - all they do is work.

I have read Chicago is now testing new rail cars for the 'L manufactured by Bombardier Inc to replace cars that are the oldest in the US going back to 1968. Our Red line cars will soon have that dubious distinction.

The Blue Line is set for the next 20 years so at least we have that going for us.

The rest of the system is what it is - a system that was designed 100 years ago with each line having its own standards. Sadly it says a lot about us that one of the most reliable tunnels in the system was built 100 years ago between Harvard and Kendall and it still doesn't have the issues that the almost 30 year old tunnel from Harvard to Alewife has.

I don't know where the money is going to come from to purchase these cars and I have a feeling MassDOT doesn't either but it has to be done. The Green Line is going to need new cars for the extension to Medford as well. I certainly don't blame the current management of the T for these issues as the problems we are having today were caused by bad decisions decades ago.

However I am tired of riding a system that has trains that don't run as well as the retired ones at the museum in Maine.

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