The tragic death of 39-year-old Robinson Lalin, who was killed Sunday after he became trapped in a door of a Red Line subway car, raised questions about the aging fleet of trains at the MBTA. But are the trains significantly older than those in other transit systems around the country?
The Red Line train car involved in Lalin’s death was put into service in 1969 or 1970, according to the MBTA, and the T is currently in the midst of a project to replace its fleet of Orange and Red Line cars.
Joe Pesaturo, a T spokesman, said Tuesday via e-mail that the agency’s Blue Line trains were built between 2007 and 2009. Of the four types of Green Line trains, he said, two date back to 1986 and 1987, another type came into service at various points between 1999 and 2008, and the rollout of a fourth model spanned 2018 to 2020.
He said three types of Red Line cars joined the fleet in 1969, 1987, and 1993, while the Orange Line trains were completed between 1979 and 1980. Train cars on the historic Mattapan trolley, Pestauro said, date back to the 1940s.
While those numbers may be eye catching, the T is not the only subway system still using older vehicles.
In New York City, the MTA’s Annual Performance Metrics Report for 2019, released in December 2021, said the average age of the system’s 6,455 subway cars was 23.6 years, with about one third of the fleet 15 years old or younger. The report said 28 percent of the trains are between 16 and 30 years old, 27 percent are between 31 and 40, and 12 percent are at least 41.
“The oldest car class is the R46 with an average age of 45 years, and the youngest is the 2.3-year-old R179 fleet,” the report said. “The oldest fleet of R46s is in the process of being replaced with new R211s over the next few years with a base contract for 460 cars and options for 640 and 437 additional cars.”
In Philadelphia, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, says on its website that the agency “operates and maintains 231 Silverliner IV’s [trains] (39-43 years old) and the push pull passenger Cars, which are about 30 years old.”
In Chicago, meanwhile, the Regional Transit Authority, which oversees the Chicago Transit Authority’s subway system, has called attention in recent years to the need to update that fleet.
“The average age of the 2600-series is 33 years, which is beyond the typical service life of a rail vehicle,” the RTA said in a report dubbed “Invest in Transit: The 2018-2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan for Chicago and Northeastern Illinois.”
The report said future “phases of the rail car purchase will address the remaining cars in the 2600-series, as well as the 3200-series cars, which are currently 23-25 years old. Without this rail car purchase, the 2600- and 3200-series cars would need to be maintained past their useful lives, at increasing cost to CTA and reduced reliability, which has a significant, direct impact on rider experience.”
The Los Angeles Metro system reported in 2019 that the average age of its “current vehicles is more than 20 years old.”
Pesaturo said Tuesday that the supply chains issues have contributed to the delay in the rollout of all the new Orange and Red Line cars. All told, 404 new train cars are coming, with the final batch slated for late 2024. To date, Pesaturo said, 70 new Orange Line trains and 10 new Red Line cars have been delivered, with two more coming by the end of the month.
“The pandemic and supply chain issues have presented multiple challenges, but the MBTA is working closely with its car builder to stabilize the production schedule and step up the pace of delivery,” Pesaturo said.
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.