MBTA Board of Directors Approves Overhaul of Type 7 Cars
Identified by their spacious interiors, passenger friendly seating arrangement, and faux wood grain panels the Type 7 light rail vehicles have been the workhorse of the MBTA’s Green Line for the past two decades. The first one hundred cars, built by Japanese manufacturer Kinki-Sharyo, quietly entered service between 1986 and 1987 with an additional order of twenty cars arriving in 1997. The Type 7s have been solid performers since the day they arrived and have single-handedly saved the Green Line from meltdown twice in their service life – the first time upon their arrival in 1986 and for the second time around the turn of the millennium. The cars, now entering their 26th year of service, recently received the approval of the MBTA’s board of directors to receive a mid-life overhaul expected to extend the life of the trolleys for decades to come.
The $104 million contract with Alstom Transportation Inc of New York calls for the overhaul of the 86 active Type 7 cars from the 1986 order. The contract also carries a provision which allows for the MBTA to overhaul the twenty cars from 1997, which are currently too young for a rebuild, at a later date.
The early 80s were a difficult period for the Green Line. The last of the PCC trolley cars from the 1940s had fallen into disrepair and a fleet of light rail vehicles built by Boeing in the mid-70s were plagued with an assortment of mechanical problems. Car shortages became a frequent service disruption. The arrival of the Type 7s allowed for the retirement of the last PCC cars – with the exception of the small fleet of fully restored cars which still serves the Mattapan-Ashmont High Speed Line – and provided enough cars for the Green Line to meet its requirements regardless of how the temperamental Boeings were performing.
In the late-90s the MBTA attempted to make the Green Line ADA compliant by introducing a new fleet of 100 Type 8 cars from Italian manufacturer Breda. The cars, which feature a low-floor center for the elderly and handicapped, were intended to replace the last of the aging Boeings and work alongside the Type 7s. But instead of ushering the Green Line into a new era of user friendly service the Type 8s arrived with a thud – literally.
Plagued by derailments, propulsion and braking problems, and an inability to successfully trainline with existing equipment the Type 8s slowly trickled into service throughout the 2000s – being pulled from service briefly in 2002 – with the last car entering service in 2007.
As the Type 8s entered service at a molasses-like pace the Boeing fleet dwindled in size and ability. By the time the cars were pulled from service in 2007 they were only capable of doing one to two trips per day. While the Type 8s floundered and the Boeings dropped out of service the Type 7s served as the backbone of the line moving people into and out of the City of Boston.
After 26 years of remarkable service the cars deserve the TLC and pampering they’re about to receive to ensure they provide quality service for the next two decades.