The MBTA Will Replace Orange and Red Line Trains, Offering More Space For Riders

By 2019, the new vehicles will be on the tracks, featuring more seats, legroom, and energy efficiency.

If the wood paneling inside some of the MBTA’s Orange Line trains wasn’t enough to tip riders off, the transit agency’s fleet is old, with some vehicles dating back to the 1980s.

But on Tuesday, Governor Deval Patrick announced that those trains will soon be replaced with a new set of vehicles—152 to be exact—which will feature more seating and standing space for riders, wider electrically operated doors, and updated passenger information and announcement systems.

“It would be helpful,” said Brian Liberator, standing on the platform at the Orange Line’s Massachusetts Avenue stop. “That would be really good.”

The announcement about the upgrades was made during a meeting between Patrick and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning.

Patrick said the upgrades—which will include replacing the entire fleet of 120 Orange Line cars, and 74 Red Line cars—will come from money dedicated to fixing the state’s transportation infrastructure as outlined in a proposal passed in July that funnels $800 million a year to MassDOT.

“[We will] replace decades-old Orange and Red Line trains with new and modern equipment, equipment that will be built in Massachusetts,” said Patrick. “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.”

Patrick also announced that the state would be moving forward with open-road tolling, and rebuilding the route of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Allston.

On Tuesday, coinciding with Patrick’s announcement, the MBTA issued Requests for Proposals for the $1.3 billion procurement to replace the 44-year old Red Line cars and 32-year old Orange Line cars.

The MBTA expects to award a contract for the cars by winter 2014-15, with the condition that the final assembly of the cars will take place in Massachusetts. Following required extensive pilot train testing, Orange Line car delivery is scheduled to begin in winter 2018-19 and Red Line car delivery in fall 2019.

Latoyha Brown, a regular Orange Line rider, said it would be worth the wait. “That would be awesome. If they put more trains on the track, that would be great,” she said. “These are some of the oldest trains.”

Rider Brittany Boisclaii said she doesn’t think the current Orange Line cars are that bad—only because she recently switched from using the Green Line—but would welcome the upgrades, especially for more space. “All of the trains could use some sprucing up, but it could be good,” she said. “I used to take the Green Line. It was the worst thing ever.”