clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

New Orange Line cars rare good news for transportation in Massachusetts

Wellington Station hosted the big August 14 rollout, but it can’t mask big challenges

New Orange Line cars rolling out of Wellington Station. Courtesy of the Governor’s Press Office on Flickr, taken by Joshua Qualls

The first six of 152 new Orange Line cars rolled out of Wellington Station on August 14, a rare bit of good news for a state transportation infrasturcture that’s been struggling lately.

Another half-dozen Orange Line cars are expected to roll out in the fall, with all 152 debuting by 2023—and thereby gradually replacing the current 120 cars. State officials say that the new fleet will mean that the Orange Line will be able to accommodate an additional 30,000 riders per day.

Officials also expect the entirely new fleet to reduce the time between Orange Line trains from six minutes to 4.5 minutes, and to allow the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to implement what it describes as a lifecycle maintenance program for better-maintained vehicles, fewer disabled trains and breakdowns, and an extended service life of at least 30 years.

In other words, most of the newer Orange Line cars should be very much in service by midcentury.

The Orange Line rollout comes as the MBTA also prepares to replace all Red Line cars with 252 new ones that are expected to expand that route’s capacity by 65,000 riders daily. The MBTA’s $8 billion, five-year capital investment plan is helping pay for both rollouts.

“Introducing the first of the new Orange Line cars into service is an important milestone in our administration’s work to deliver a modern, reliable, and safe transportation system for riders,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement. “Over the next several years, the MBTA will significantly increase daily capacity across the Red and Orange Lines, giving people more options for getting where they need to go.”

That may be, but 2019 has not otherwise been a banner year for transportation. The early June derailment of a Red Line train just south of JFK/UMass and the ensuing weeks of snarled train traffic and frayed nerves underscored the (many) challenges the T faces, not least its immense debt costs.

Meanwhile, as far as the roadways, Massachusetts—the Boston area in particular—continues to host some of the worst vehicular traffic in the world. And, while 2019 started with the possibility of drastic action to ease the gridlock, only one proposal appears to have any momentum for surviving past New Year’s Eve.

Governor Baker this summer proposed a $2,000 tax credit for employers for every employee who telecommuters or otherwise works closer to home rather than to the office. The proposal was part of an $18 billion pending transportation bond bill designed to address the aforementioned transit challenges. The tax credit would likely be the first of its kind in the U.S.