What’s shiny, smooth, and has that new car smell?

Answer: New Orange Line cars currently being tested

IT’S BEEN NEARLY 40 YEARS since the Orange Line has seen new subway cars, but that changed on Tuesday when a set of four cars made a special appearance on the test track at Wellington Station in Medford.

The new cars are bright and shiny. Their ride is much smoother. And that smell – oh, that new car smell.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who is up for reelection this year, basked in the glow of the cars as T officials pointed out all the new features – wider doors, digital displays, flip-up seats, and more room. A short ride between Wellington and Sullivan Stations went off uneventfully.

The four-car set is currently being tested, and it will be followed by additional sets of four. As the vehicles arrive and complete testing, they will be sent out in train sets of six. By the end of 2019, they should be everywhere on the Orange Line.

“They can’t get here soon enough,” Baker said as he stood on the platform. “It’s pretty clear that they’ll be a terrific addition to the fleet.”

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack (right) points out a feature of the new Orange Line cars to Medford Mayor Stephanie Muccini Burke. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)

The old cars were built between 1979 and 1981 and sometimes feel like they break down on a daily basis. The new cars are being built by CRRC, a Chinese company that is assembling the vehicles in a new plant in Springfield. The state agreed to pay $566 million for 152 Orange Line cars and 252 Red Line cars toward the end of the administration of former governor Deval Patrick in 2014. The order was expanded in late 2016, adding 120 more Red Line cars to replace the entire fleet.

The T is also investing in power and signals systems and upgrading maintenance facilities, all with the goal of increasing capacity on the Orange and Red Lines. The total investment is about $2 billion.

Meet the Author

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.

State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the goal is to reduce the wait time between trains to four minutes. Baker, who doesn’t ride the T, knows how important the new trains are to his political future.

“Once these start running, it will dramatically increase the system’s capacity during rush hour and anyone who rides during rush hour on the Orange Line knows that the single biggest problem we’ve got there is we don’t have enough trains moving through at that point in time,” he said.