T notes: Vehicle maintenance costs down except on Green Line

Repairs begin on Alewife parking garage

MBTA OFFICIALS SAY say they reduced maintenance costs for buses and subways over the course of the last fiscal year, but not for Green Line cars.

The officials said bus maintenance costs have fallen from $4.05 per mile in July 2017 to $3.34 per mile in June 2018, generating savings of about $13 million. Subway maintenance costs per mile have fallen from $3.31 to $2.61 over the same time period, yielding savings of more than $5 million.

Green Line maintenance costs, however, increased during the period, rising from $6.96 per mile to $7.75 per mile. The T did not provide an estimate of the extra costs associated with the higher Green Line maintenance costs.

Jeffrey Gonneville, the deputy general manager of the T, said Green Line costs per mile tend to be higher because the vehicles travel fewer miles overall and are more difficult to maintain.

T officials credited the reduction in maintenance costs to a new initiative designed to spur cost efficiency efforts throughout the agency. But it appears bus maintenance workers may have some concerns about the cost-cutting process.

Michael Vartabedian, business agent for Local 264, which represents bus maintenance workers at the T, told the Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday that he had intended to testify about concerns he had about job safety, working conditions, and manpower issues. He said he scrapped that speech only after T General Manager Luis Ramirez agreed to meet with him Monday morning and to schedule additional meetings to address the problems. He declined to go into detail.

Control board approves two contracts

The MBTA oversight board approved a pair of contracts on Monday – one to hire an engineering team to help with the 10-year procurement of a new generation of Green Line cars and the other to keep 86 of the T’s Red Line running until they can be replaced in early 2024.

The Green Line contract, valued at $44.5 million, was awarded to a team of companies led by LTK Engineering Services. The team will help the MBTA develop a procurement for a Green Line train of the future and determine the infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate it. Previously, T officials said they wanted to buy trains that would be far longer and carry nearly twice the passengers of the current vehicles, most of which have been in service for 20 to 30 years.

In Monday’s presentation, T officials said they expected the new vehicles to begin arriving by February 2025. Previously, they had set a target delivery date of 2028 with a cost estimate of $3.5 billion.

The Red Line contract, valued at nearly $3.9 million, would replace most of the major components on 40 percent of the Red Line cars. T officials said the Red Line cars were purchased in 1999 and never had a midlife overhaul. The officials said the new components should allow the cars to keep running until they can be replaced in 2024.

The Red Line contract was awarded to WSP USA and two other firms, one of which was LTK Engineering Services.

Repairs begin on Alewife parking garage

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The MBTA said on Monday that $5.7 million of repair work at the Alewife Station parking garage has begun, which will take 200 spaces out of service on a daily basis.

The garage was shut down temporarily in August after a portion of the ceiling on the second level fell on a car. After a series of engineering assessments and quickie repairs, the 2,500-space garage reopened.  The T has said it is still developing a long-range plan for parking at the garage without fully explaining what that means.