MBTA replaces all cars on the Blue Line: On a scale of 1-10, give it a 6

November 25, 2009
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While some East Boston commuters have complained the new Blue Line trains are less comfortable then their outdated and older counterparts — others like the sleek new look and added capacity.

Whatever your opinion is of the new trains that run through the heart of East Boston, they are now the only ride in town.

“This fall, with little fanfare, the Blue Line made the transition to all six-car trains at all hours of the day and night,” said MBTA’s Joe Pesaturo. “The last of the old, unreliable cars were removed from service, and now customers are served only by the new fleet of 94 cars.”

The transition to all six-car trains came just as the modernization and accessibility project at Maverick Station was completed.

“The entire fleet old four car trains have been replaced with the new six car trains, providing for 50 percent more capacity per train,” said Pesaturo. “Today, twelve six-car trains operate 4-to-5 minutes apart in the peak commuting periods and 7-to-8 minutes apart during off-peak periods.”

Local commuters have been enjoying a more comfortable ride on the new Blue Line fleet since January 2008. In February 2008 former MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas, joined local elected officials at Aquarium Station to roll out four more of the new, sleek, state-of-the-art trains that now running between Wonderland and Bowdoin Stations.

Noting that the Blue Line is a vital link to downtown Boston for residents of East Boston, Revere and Chelsea with connection to Logan International Airport for Hub travelers, the new trains are a win situation for both the MBTA’s everyday customer and for those folks who may opt to leave their car at home and take public transportation.

Many of the train platforms along the Blue Line have been lengthened to accommodate six-car trains. The replacement of the nearly 30-year old Blue Line fleet is part of the MBTA’s overall project to significantly upgrade service on the Blue Line.

Manufactured by Siemens Transportation Systems at a cost of $172 million, the new stainless steel cars boast increased accessibility, wider passenger seating, hand straps, and automated audio/visual display of station announcements. Additional features include: passenger emergency intercoms, smoke detectors, and wheel-mounted noise absorbers to reduce screeching on curves.

East Boston’s five stations–Maverick, Airport, Wood Island, Orient Heights and Suffolk Downs–are able to accommodate the new six car trains. Also, Boston stations–Aquarium, State Street and Government Center will also be able to handle the new fleet. However, the aging Bowdoin station may not be up to par to handle the new six car trains and may soon become obsolete.

This begs the question whether or not the MBTA will finally fund and build a Red-Blue Line connector to the Charles River/Mass General stop.

The Red-Blue Line connector was a key piece of Big Dig mitigation that would make life a lot easier for residents commuting to doctor’s appointments at Mass General or to jobs in Cambridge. However, the Romney administration tried to renege on the commitment the state made to East Boston for its support of the Big Dig. The commitment to extend the Blue Line to the Charles River/MGH stop on the Red Line was all but abandoned by Romney until the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) sued the state.

In 2006 while Romney was still governor, his administration had a change of heart and signed an agreement to move forward on long-standing projects like the Red-Blue Connector, providing interim deadlines for existing projects, and by bolstering the public participation and oversight process agreement.

In March 2005, CLF sued the Commonwealth saying that the state had fallen substantially behind on a number of the transit projects promised to communities to offset the increased traffic and pollution from the Big Dig.

The settlement obligates the Commonwealth to prepare a final design of the Red-Blue connector, linking the Blue Line at Government Center with the Red Line’s Charles Street/MGH station.

The MBTA has held two public meetings on the possible development of a connector. The next meeting has not been scheduled.

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