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Residents object to transfer of ‘hand-me-down’ Green Line trains to Mattapan line

Tanisha Bhat
Residents object to transfer of ‘hand-me-down’ Green Line trains to Mattapan line
A Green Line Type 9 light rail vehicle. PHOTO: WIKI COMMONS

Residents who live along the Mattapan line have expressed frustration with the MBTA’s announced plans to eventually replace the current trolleys with used cars from the Green Line, which one resident scorned as “hand-me-downs.”

The transit agency is spending $12.2 million to refurbish the existing trolleys on the Mattapan line until they can be replaced with light rail vehicles formerly operated on the Green Line. So far, two trolleys have been refurbished and are back in service, while work on the third trolley is underway, with plans to get it back on the rails this fall.

“We’re getting cars that were once in downtown Boston,” said Mattapan resident Gina Pitts. “They’re getting new cars, and we’re getting their hand-me-downs?”

Jovan Lacet, a Mattapan resident who unsuccessfully ran for state representative in 2020, called the current plan “unacceptable,” saying it devalues the importance of the community.

“We said we didn’t want used trolleys,” Lacet said. “We’ve been using refurbished trolleys for decades. We did it because we had no choice and also because of the aesthetic of its history. Now we’re gonna spend millions of dollars. If we’re gonna spend the money, let’s bring in new trains.”

Lacet and Pitts spoke during a virtual hearing June 20 on what the MBTA has labelled the Mattapan Line Transformation Project.

Current PCC Trolley passing through the Valley Road Station. PHOTO: MBTA

The MBTA plans to use the Type 9 light rail vehicles, which have been in service on the Green Line since 2019, to replace the current PCC trolleys on the Mattapan line because of their better endurance during snow and higher passenger capacity. The PCC trains can hold 130 passengers, whereas the Type 9 trains can hold 212 — 61% more.

“We’re looking at ridership and looking at the needs of the line to size the platforms appropriately. Not only for today, but for the future,” said Philippe Santos of HNTB, the contractor for the project. “We understand the importance of getting it right the first time and we think that the Type 9’s with this capacity and its performance during peak hours will be adequate for Mattapan now and in the future.”

During the hearing, the MBTA was also criticized for a months-long delay in replacing stairs at one station on the Mattapan line.

State Senator Walter Timilty of Milton brought up concerns about the MBTA’s lack of a plan to replace the staircase that was demolished in March from Adams Street to Milton Station. He added that currently people must walk past a large dimly lit brick building or a private parking lot to access the station.

“Now we need more than what we’ve had, that’s for sure, because it’s not safe. It’s absolutely not safe. So in the short term, what do we have for temporary plans? Because what is there right now is not acceptable,” he said.

A.J. Tanner, manager of the Mattapan Line Transformation Project, said the MBTA plans to install an elevator where the staircase was located and a sloped walkway from Adams Street to the platform. No date was announced for the completion of the renovations. Temporarily, the MBTA plans to pave the driveway and parking lot of the station.

In another element of the transformation plan, the MBTA is also looking into potentially removing the loop at the Ashmont station above the Red Line platform for inbound Mattapan line trains because the former Green Line vehicles can operate in both directions and the current track will not be able to support a longer, accessible platform.

“Option one would be to remove the structure and rebuild it to allow for the same passenger connections that exist today. The Mattapan Line station would remain elevated. Option two would remove the structure and put it at ground level with the existing Red Line trains. The second option allows for a shorter connection to the inbound Red Line platform,” Santos said.

Additionally, all stations along the Mattapan line will have center island platforms, except Central Avenue and Milton, which will continue to have separate inbound and outbound station platforms.

The $127 million project will take approximately eight to ten years to complete and is expected to increase ridership capacity and improve street crossings, walkways and accessibility, with leveled platforms for boarding. The MBTA is expecting to complete 15% of the design package by the end of this year, including finalized layouts, concepts for each station, cost estimates and a project schedule.

“This is a very large program that will take years to design and construct and the intent of these meetings is to engage the public early in the process so that feedback can be incorporated, and the public can anticipate both the short- and long-term improvements,” Tanner said.

The next public meeting for this project will be scheduled for the fall and held in person in Mattapan.

Green Line, Mattapan, Mattapan line, MBTA, PCC trolleys