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Next on the MBTA spending spree: bigger Green Line cars

The agency hopes to boost capacity on the line by buying up to 226 cars, much longer than current models.

The MBTA is seeking companies interested in building its next generation of Green Line cars.Aram Boghosian

With a couple new Orange Line trains at last running during rush hour, and the first fresh Red Line vehicles expected later this year, the Green Line now becomes the next targeted for new cars.

Expected to cost more than $1 billion, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s latest spending spree is aimed at boosting Green Line capacity by up to 100 percent, in part by buying a new fleet of as many as 200-plus trolleys that will be much longer than the current cars — about 113 feet, compared to 74.

Each new trolley would be low to the ground for its entire length, no longer requiring passengers to walk up steps as they board. They would also fit about twice as many riders as the current cars, which are listed for about 100 passengers but often carry many more during rush hour.


Though officials have previously disclosed plans for new cars as far back as 2018, the agency in December issued a formal solicitation to companies for 165 new cars, with an an option to buy 61 more. The MBTA expects to select a contractor by the end of this year. Then, according to the T’s request for proposals, the contractor will be expected to deliver four test cars within about three and a half years, and more about one year later. Replacement of the entire fleet would take about nine years.

The T set a mid-April deadline for submissions. Several major manufacturers attended a meeting in late January to learn more about the project, according to a sign-in sheet provided by the T. Attendees included representatives from Siemens, Mitsubishi, Hyundai Rotem, Bombardier. Also present were current MBTA rail car contractors: CAF, the Spanish company currently building 24 new Green Line trolleys for the T, and CRRC MA, the China-owned company that is building the new Red and Orange Line cars in Springfield.


It’s unclear what the new cars would cost — that’s the point of a bidding process. But in previous planning documents, the T had estimated they would cost about $1.34 billion. The agency has also estimated that a more comprehensive project that would include infrastructure changes along the Green Line, such as lengthening platforms and eliminating sharp turns, would cost a grand total of $3.5 billion, including the cost of the new cars. Already, the T is spending more than $60 million to strengthen the overhead viaduct that carries the Green Line past North Station to Science Park and Lechmere, in part to fit it for the larger vehicles.

Taken together, these projects would allow the MBTA to run two of the new, longer cars at a time for many trips, effectively doubling capacity.

The T said it would select the new vehicle builder based on “best value,” using a formula that determines who offers the best equipment and features at the best price.

The contract for 404 new Red and Orange Line cars will cost the T about $1 billion. And the 24 new Green Line cars from CAF cost about $118 million; so far 17 have been delivered to the T and nine are in service.

Those new 74-foot long Green Line cars were ordered to keep service levels stable when the Green Line extends an additional 4.7 miles to Tufts University and Somerville’s Union Square, which is scheduled to begin service in late 2021. But the CAF cars won’t be on the Green Line for long. When the next generation of longer cars comes in, the T plans to move the cars built by CAF to the Mattapan trolley line, where streetcars built in the 1940s link Mattapan and Milton to the Red Line station at Ashmont.