T riders asked to weigh in on trains

3 design options for commuter rail

By L. Finch
Globe Correspondent / July 12, 2011

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MBTA officials are asking the public to help them decide on the look of the authority’s new trains.

Beginning today, visitors to the T’s website will be invited to vote on their favorite design scheme for 20 new commuter rail locomotives to be manufactured by MotivePower Inc.

“We’re just trying to find more ways to get customers involved,’’ Richard A. Davey, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said yesterday. “It’s a pretty simple opportunity to get customers engaged and to remind folks that our new locomotives are coming.’’

The three possible schemes, designed by the same company that will manufacture the trains, feature the familiar purple color used by the current commuter rail fleet, but differ in the number of gray stripes running along the side and in placement of the T logo.

The first of the new engines, purchased last year from manufacturer MotivePower Inc. in Boise, Idaho, for $114 million, should be completed by mid-2013, Davey said. They will replace about one-third of the fleet in service, he said.

Until then, the MBTA has leased five 16-year-old locomotives from Maryland’s MARC commuter rail since March and purchased two diesel-electric commuter rail trains in February from the Utah Transit Authority to help shore up the aging fleet. More than half of the 82 trains owned by the T were manufactured in the 1970s.

About half of all commuter rail delays are caused by mechanical failure, Davey said.

Last winter the authority was particularly plagued by delayed service, prompting MBTA officials to search for trains to sustain the commuter rail in the meantime.

“It’s really important that we’re upgrading and replacing our fleet on regular basis,’’ Davey said. “It’s really critical.’’

As for which design scheme Davey prefers, he would not say.

“I do [have a favorite], but I’m not going to tell you which one,’’ he said, laughing. “I wouldn’t want to skew the voting.’’

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