I had a fascinating visit a couple of weeks ago to the Green Line Maintenance Yard in Newton. They roll cars in on a track extension and inspect them and perform routine maintenance from an underground trench. If the cars need heavier maintenance, they can roll them onto a special track and lift up the chassis on blocks.
Once the car is up on blocks, the self-contained drive units can be removed for maintenance at a separate work station.
The cars come apart into discretely maintenable units and the yard staff consists of specialists in maintenance of those units. There is a station for the wheels — where a special grinding mill allows them to keep metal wheels in round while shaving the absolute minimum possible amount off the wheel. They have specialists in the drive train, in the brakes, the air conditioners, the solid-state driver controls, the electronic communications.
At each of those stations, you have seasoned engineers who take considerable pride in their work. They have built specialized shop tools to support the repetitive maintenance tasks that essentially only they can do. Many of the components are 20 or 30 years old and there is no ready market for replacement parts. So the engineers have to fabricate what they need.
I walked the facility with the head of the Carmen’s union and met many of the staff. All were eager to explain the techniques they use to keep the cars running and preserve service quality. I learned a lot. Their commitment was inspiring. At the same time, the visit was a reminder of how old our fleet is — through extraordinary diligence we are squeezing extra years out of some very old equipment. I’ve heard similar impressions from others who have visited other T maintenance facilities.
Ironically, space constraints on maintenance and storage are a principal barrier to expanding fleet size (which, in turn, constrains service improvement). That is why I added language to the recent transportation bond bill explicitly authorizing spending to expand maintenance and storage space.
Thanks. That’s great stuff. The new Somerville yard, part of the Green Line extension, should also be very helpful, when it opens.
I did not know about this
Wow, looks very cool. Is it possible to get tours of this yard or any other MBTA yard?
Very impressive. And I am glad to know that you are working to get additional maintenance and storage space. Question: is there a similar facility for busses, and if so have you had a chance to see it and compare?
I haven’t been to the bus facility — that’s on my list to do!
Collin, not sure about general tour opportunities. We’ll ask about if there is any routine mechanism for that. There may not be — these are fairly hazardous areas — pits to fall into, heavy objects moving. I’m not suggesting that the safety rules are inadequate, but these are working areas, and they lack the protections one would find in area intended for general public access.
The T used to offer tours of their facilities. I originally posed the idea to then incoming General Manager Rich Davey at his first public roundtable meeting in 2010. So far as I understand, the tours were coordinated by Darrin McAuliffe, but he has recently transitioned from the MBTA to MassDOT under a similar capacity.
The original page appears to have been taken down and I’m not sure if the program has been cancelled, suspended indefinitely, or is being reorganized in some capacity. The tours were very poorly advertised, though very insightful.
The NYC MTA to our south offers regular tours of facilities through the Transit Museum. While more appealing to transit advocates and rail aficionados, the tours do offer some semblance of transparency and if well-attended, offer the public an intimate view of what is often a much maligned and misunderstood public agency.
I would be happy to bring this issue up at the next MBTA ROC meeting at the end of the month, though I’m sure Senator Brownsberger can reach out more directly to the appropriate contacts at the MBTA to inquire about the ‘T Open Doors’ program and if it was indeed discontinued.
Marc, thanks for these leads. We will follow up.
Our updated understanding is that there are no scheduled public tours of these facilities.
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