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MBTA Board Updates: More New Orange Line Trains Coming, And More Bus Garage Discussion

The MBTA’s first new Orange Line train in over 30 years began serving riders on the morning of Wednesday, August 14, 2019. More trains are expected to enter service every few weeks until the entire fleet is replaced in 2022. Photo courtesy of the MBTA.

The MBTA's Fiscal Control Management Board met today for the first time since the December holidays for a relatively short meeting focused on the agency's backlogged bus garage maintenance needs, which Streetsblog covered in detail last week.

Some highlights:

The source of an "uncommon noise" in new Orange Line cars has been pinpointed to wear pads between the "bolster" and the truck frame. These parts are designed to rotate under a train as it goes around curves.
A diagram of the bolster (blue) and truck frame assembly under new Orange Line train cars.
A diagram of the bolster and truck frame assembly under new Orange Line train cars, from a January 2020 Fiscal and Management Control Board presentation.

Deputy General Manager Jeffrey Gonneville announced that the source of an "uncommon noise" in new Orange Line cars has been pinpointed to wear pads on a part called the "bolster," which is located between the body of each train car and the truck frame that holds a train's wheels. Those parts have been replaced on the new trains,  and the assembly line has been updated in the Springfield manufacturing facility where additional new Orange and Red Line trains are being assembled.

  • One of the MBTA's two new Orange Line trains returned to service last week; Gonneville reported that the second set of new train cars could return to service by Friday of this week, and a third new trainset could enter service "in late February."
  • Gonneville also updated the board on maintenance issues at the agency's old, overcrowded bus garages. In 2018, the MBTA entered a contract with its Machinists’ Union Local 264 that promised to spend $25 million a year on "state of good repair" upgrades to the garages; at today's meeting, Gonneville sheepishly admitted that the T had only spent $12 million on those repairs by the end of 2019
  • In better news, MBTA Chief Engineer Erik Stoothoff announced that the agency had recently consulted with the Machinists' Union to identify another $18.1 million worth of high-priority garage repairs to be executed in the short term.
  • Stoothoff also reviewed the agency's near-term plans to build new bus garages in Quincy and an expansion of its Southampton garage in Boston, and noted that these new facilities would be designed to include sufficient power infrastructure to charge a future electric bus fleet. This is will be no mean task: Stoothoff said that a garage of 130 to 150 buses would require a power source in the "10 to 12 megawatt size range," which is about 7 times the maximum output of the Hull wind turbine.
  • The FMCB is tentatively scheduled to vote on a project management contract for the new Quincy garage on January 27, and a community meeting for the new garage project in Quincy has been scheduled for January 29.
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