Pols shifting stances on Mattapan line

Walsh statement suggests his view changing on old trolleys

WHAT APPEARS to be the MBTA’s preferred option for service between Mattapan and Ashmont Station on the Red Line is gaining support from most elected officials representing the area.

For years, the T has been providing service on the line using trolleys dating to the 1940s. The T last year began a partial overhaul of the trolleys to keep them going another eight to 10 years, but an analysis released on Monday concluded the trolleys wouldn’t last long beyond that and don’t represent a good option for the future.

The T examined five other options, including the purchase of new historic-looking vehicles, electric or hybrid buses, or new or repurposed light-rail vehicles. The preferred option, in terms of both cost and utility, appeared to be repurposing eight to 10 years from now the light-rail vehicles that are just now arriving for use on the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford.

Politicians who have long supported continued use of the old, 1940s-era trolleys (called Presidential Conference Committee cars after the group of manufacturers and transit operators who collaborated on the design in the 1920s and 1930s) seemed to be shifting their stances in the wake of the MBTA analysis.

Rep. Daniel Cullinane, whose district includes part of Mattapan, indicated he’s had a change of heart as a result of the MBTA report.

“I will always love the history and character of the PCC cars, but as we plan for the future, MBTA customers deserve a line that is safe, is accessible to all, and is reliable in all weather conditions,” Cullinane said.  “So if the PCC cars cannot meet these standards, then it may be time for a newer fleet of trolleys that can.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who said two years ago that “the city would lose some of its character if the trolleys were to go,” issued a statement on Wednesday suggesting he is now open to the idea.

“I have consistently supported a rail option for the corridor that is reliable, accessible, and an icon for the community,” his statement said. “It’s important that any improvements made to the Mattapan trolley line focus on enhancing the functionality and reliability of the line, including ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessibility across the service, station infrastructure, and overall maintenance.”

Two of the T’s chief reasons for moving away from the old trolley cars are their unreliability and their very poor handicap accessibility.

Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell isn’t backing away from the old cars. She said on Wednesday that she still supports keeping “the historic trolley line with the trolleys as the service vehicles.”

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Among riders, feelings are mixed. Milton resident Darian Carrigan said his preference would be to keep the trolleys running.  “I know they’re not very economical, but they’re part of the great historic charm of Boston,” he said.

Fellow passenger Stephanie Walters disagrees, saying the “old trolleys gotta’ go.” She favors replacing the existing cars with new, historic replica trolleys. “It would be a good compromise,” she said.