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The MBTA is preparing for a future with ‘supercars’ on the Green Line

It may just arrive later than expected.

An MBTA rider waits the Longwood MBTA Station in Brookline. Craig F. Walker / The Boston Globe

By the end of the decade, the MBTA’s latest round of new Green Line trolleys will be old news.

This week, MBTA officials announced intentions to roll out extra-large Green Line “supercars” to begin replacing most of its current fleet of aging trolleys in 2027, after the pandemic cast some uncertainties on the plans.

“I can now say confidently that we have a strategy for moving forward with the Type 10 supercars,” Angel Peña, the MBTA’s chief of Green Line Transformation, said during a meeting Monday.

Officials say the “supercars” will be more accessible and large enough to carry twice as many passengers on the country’s oldest — and often crowded — subway line.

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The plans to introduce the fleet of extra-long trolleys on the Green Line have been in the works since 2018. As The Boston Globe reported at the time, the MBTA ultimately plans to use them to replace the roughly 200 older trolleys that were first introduced in 1986 and 2008, though the 24 newer cars the T has been adding to support the Green Line Extension would continue to be used (potentially on the Mattapan trolley line)

However, the plans were slightly knocked off track amid budget cutbacks induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MBTA originally proposed to order 165 supercars, with an option to buy 61 additional cars.

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Now, following discussions with the MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board, officials say the agency is decreasing its initial planned order to 102 cars. MBTA spokeswoman Lisa Battiston noted that the revised contract includes an increased option to purchase more cars “to reflect the new base order quantity.”

Though the original plans called for running two of the two longer trains together, Peña said the base order focuses on running single supercars, with running two at the time “in the future.”

MBTA officials expect bid proposals to build the new cars to be submitted by July 14, a later-than-originally expected date due to the pandemic and “funding alignment,” Battiston said.

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“We anticipate having good competition from multiple car builders and look forward to presenting more information at an upcoming Board meeting in mid-2022 after the proposals are received and evaluated,” Battiston said.

Pena said the agency plans to award a contract to build the cars by next summer.

Under the timeline unveiled Monday, the design process will then stretch from mid-2022 into 2026, when the T plans to begin piloting its first supercars. According to Pena’s presentation, the agency plans to begin rolling out the cars into service from 2027 through 2032.

That’s about three years later than the MBTA previously planned.

In the meantime, Peña says the agency will need to complete infrastructure work to accommodate the new trolleys, such as lengthening and raising certain platforms.

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At 114 feet long, the “Type 10” supercars will be 40 feet longer than the current 74-foot Green Line trolleys — enough room to carry 400 passengers, which currently would require two vehicles to carry.

They’ll also be designed to have low floors, which in addition to creating more space, will make boarding more accessible to riders with disabilities. According to Pena, the steps on the Green Line’s current trolleys — even the 24 new cars — “create challenges for accessibility.”

MBTA previously estimated that the supercars would cost $1.34 billion, according to the Globe. However, officials did not give an updated estimate for their revised order. According to Peña, the MBTA plans to seek a Federal Transit Administration grant to fund the project.

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The updated Green Line supercar plans were disclosed shortly after MBTA officials broke the news that the service on the Green Line Extension will be delayed by several months.

They also come amid the MBTA’s fledgling efforts to replace its Orange and Red line fleets. After the first few new Orange and Red line cars were pulled from service in March to address a mechanical issue, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said Monday that they hope to have them back on the tracks “this summer.”

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