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MBTA says new Red Line cars delayed, again

A new Orange Line car is shown in 2019. (State House News Service/File)
A new Orange Line car is shown in 2019. (State House News Service/File)

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TGIF! Today's the final day of the week, the final day of the month and the final day of our fall fundraiser. If WBUR makes a meaningful difference in your life, please consider making a donation today!

If you've ridden the Orange Line at all since it reopened last week, you'll notice a glaring difference: no old cars. As MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak put it during a meeting yesterday, the 72 new Orange Line cars now in service — nearly half the total amount the T plans to get by next summer — has been enough to run "all new cars all the time" over the past 11 days (though you'll still see some old cars from time to time). It's a long-awaited moment for Orange Line riders. However, for Red Line riders, the wait for new cars is only getting longer.

MBTA officials said Thursday that the full delivery of the new Red Line cars has been delayed yet another year. CRRC, the company contracted to build the new cars, doesn't expect to finish the job until September 2025. (The original plan was to get all 252 new cars by September 2023; it was pushed back to 2024 in 2020.)

What's the hold up? T officials said CRRC has been focusing on the new Orange Line cars lately. But the problems run deeper than that: the pandemic, staffing shortages, supply chain issues, and the additional time it takes to go back and fix all the various mechanical issues that have cropped up in the new cars.

The first new Red Line car made its debut at the very end of 2020. However, it's been repeatedly pulled for repairs and runs infrequently (it's been on the tracks just once in the last week).

Officials aren't happy with the situation — or CRRC. "We expect better" said Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler, who said they'll push to expedite the new cars' delivery. At the very least, they plan to collect steep fines from CRRC for the delays.

In the near term, the T is also turning its focus of infrastructure upgrades to the Red Line — and that means some diversions in the coming days. This weekend, shuttle buses will replace train service between JFK/UMass and Broadway due to bridge work. And then, this Monday through Thursday, the line's Ashmont leg will shut down early each night at 8:45 p.m. for track work (buses will again sub in).

Some voters in Massachusetts may notice an additional question on their ballot this fall. WBUR's Aimee Moon reports that there's an advisory question in 20 local House districts asking residents whether or not they want lawmakers' committee votes to be made public.

The ballot question is non-binding, so it won't force any rule changes. But it could send a message to state lawmakers about how their constituents feel about the current procedural rules — which have long been criticized for not being transparent enough. (Supporters of the status quo argue that disclosing committee votes could lead to their positions being misconstrued.)

There's also a non-binding ballot question in 20 districts asking voters if they want their lawmakers to press for the creation of a single-payer health care system in Massachusetts. You can see if either of the questions is on the ballot in your district here.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced an executive order Thursday aimed at streamlining the approval process for affordable housing developments in the city.

Wu says the current process takes an average of 337 days — 11 months — from start to finish. Her five-part executive order aims to cut that timeline in half by creating an alternative permitting process for affordable housing projects and implementing zoning changes that remove barriers to their construction.

PSA: Today's your last chance of the year to dine outside in the North End. Restaurants will be packing away those on-street patios for the season tonight, as the neighborhood's outdoor dining program comes to an end.

The good news: other neighborhoods in Boston can still use public street and sidewalk space for outdoor dining through December. If you're looking for a spot this weekend and beyond, check out this map of all the city's outdoor dining locations.

P.S.— Do you know which utility bill will be going up sharply for many Massachusetts residents? Then take our Boston News Quiz and test your knowledge of the local stories we covered this week.

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Twitter Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.

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