Some lucky Green Line passengers Friday were the first to ride on a new MBTA subway car in nearly a decade, as the transit system began deploying two dozen fresh trolleys into passenger service.
The new cars are about the same size and shape as the next-oldest trolleys but can fit about 10 percent more riders, largely because of a rearranged seating layout. They also feature doors that slide open side-to-side, compared with existing Green Line cars where doors fold open. And the poles for strap-hangers are bright yellow, rather than aluminum-tinted, so they are easier to see. Small video screens will display service alerts and advertising.
Less obvious to the typical rider are better propulsion and braking systems, which will lead to better service, MBTA deputy general manager Jeff Gonneville said. The trolleys are also equipped with cameras for better security and systems that count the number of passengers who board, which will help the T better assess ridership.
The maiden voyage of the newest car occurred late Friday morning on the Green Line’s D branch, as the sparkling-clean trolley left North Station bound for Riverside. MBTA officials, reporters, and camera crews, transit geeks who sought out the new trolley, and unsuspecting riders all jammed on a crowded first ride together.
“Right place at the right time,” said Jake Foskett, a Central Massachusetts resident who uses the Green Line only a few times a year and wandered to the platform unaware of the pageantry. But he said the new car seemed more spacious than what he remembers from his infrequent trips.
Xindi Song had no idea she would be riding in the new car for her trip to Brookline. She said she was impressed that the trolley was “clean and shiny” and “modern.” But she also noted that even perfect vehicles would not improve some of her biggest complaints about the Green Line, such as tightly bunched stations above ground on the B branch that require frequent stopping.
Nonetheless, she let out a loud “whoo!” as the trolley pulled out of North Station.
The single new car will run only on the D branch for now. A second trolley is expected in mid-January, and the rest will be introduced into service incrementally through next fall across the Green Line system.
By 2022, when the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford opens, the new cars will add to the existing fleet to keep service levels steady. In the meantime, their presence will allow the T to take older cars out of service for maintenance and repairs without sacrificing service, Gonneville said.
They will not be used to add more frequent service.
Ordered as part of the upcoming Green Line extension, the modest fleet is at the vanguard of a long train of new vehicles coming to the aging rail system. The first of more than 150 new Orange Line cars are also expected to enter service in early 2019, with the rest rolling in over a few years. The Red Line, too, is due for a total replacement, with 252 new cars expected to start serving riders in late 2019.
“This is going to be the first of many new vehicles,” Gonneville said. “Up until 2022, 2023, we are. . . going to be updating and introducing new vehicles to our fleets.”
The T has also introduced hundreds of new buses in recent years and will soon receive five all-electric buses for the Silver Line.
The 24 new Green Line cars are being partially built in Spain, then shipped to upstate New York for final assembly. They’re expected to last 25 years and cost the T about $118 million, part of the overall Green Line extension budget of about $2.3 billion.
The introduction of the trolley was delayed a few weeks as Gonneville said the T conducted additional testing, partially because of what he described as a minor hiccup — at certain speeds, the car was making a strange high-pitched noise — that required an engineering fix. The sound is no longer an issue, he said.