The purchase addresses part of a $3 billion backlog of investments needed to maintain basic service levels on existing train, bus, and subway routes and at stations, to a “state of good repair’’ deficit noted last year in an MBTA review ordered by Governor Deval Patrick.
The T’s earlier attempt to purchase locomotives was derailed in part by lobbying from Idaho politicians seeking to protect MotivePower against a rival bid from a European company proposing to assemble most of its locomotives in Kentucky after designing and building the first few overseas. The T unsuccessfully sought a waiver to have that bid considered eligible under the “Buy America’’ requirements for federally reimbursed transit projects.
The T’s locomotives each run roughly 50,000 miles a year. The new locomotives together will save more than 700,000 gallons annually in fuel — more than $1.5 million — over their aging counterparts, and will emit 924 fewer tons of nitrogen oxide, 38 fewer tons of hydrocarbons, and 26 fewer tons of particulate matter, according to the MBCR.
This move, along with several others, including the CSX Worcester Expansion project and the USPS South Station Annex Relocation project, is desgined to increase routes and ridership over the next few years. At $7.75 for an end-to-end ticket, the Commuter Rail price is still one of the lowest in the entire country. While there is some concern that the MBCR will raise rates to help pay for the new engines, the fact remains there there is still some room to raise rates and still be very competitive. At this time, MBCR has not said they will raise rates.
If Massachusetts is serious about mass transit, and they seem to be, currently, this investment in new equipment is a necessary cost which will pay for itself over time. This combined with all the other improvements in Commuter Rail and Subway (which have been so slow to come), should evolve Massachusetts' Mass Transit Program into a relatively modern one, as opposed to the relics they've been running since the 80s.
Even if all the improvements scheduled take place, that would still leave Massachusetts short of “state-of-the-art”. But, what it will do is allow more people to get places faster and cheaper, and hopefully reduce traffic on main highways throughout the Massachusetts.