Thursday, May 15, 2008

The F***ing Type 8s

Photograph Courtesy of The Boston Globe

Well, 3879 derailed near Chestnut Hill Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton the other day (May 14). It was the operator's last trip for the night (c. 1:30AM) and about 30 people were on board at the time of the accident. The trolley jumped the track and hit a pole, causing the overhead wires to come down and set the car on fire. Thankfully, no one was injured, however substitute bus service ran for most of Wednesday between Washington Street and Boston College on the B Branch. Wednesday morning was spent cleaning up the wreckage and getting the line back online for service. 3879 is currently sitting at Lake Street (the yard facility at BC) awaiting its fate. The damage it sustained is pretty devastating. Some rumors are flying around that it may be the first Type 8 to be retired. Theories abound as to what caused the accident. Another slip up by an unreliable piece of equipment? Operator speeding? College kid saboteur (what some think, but not me personally)? The MBTA says it will investigate the matter. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

To be honest, I wasn't surprised this happened. Not at all.

I have always had a distrust for these cars. They have caused trouble for the T right from the start. Now all my faith in them is completely gone. I'm going strictly Type 7 from now on. Harsh, but totally warranted.

The Type 8 has had a less than impressive track record (sorry for the pun) in its seven-ish years of service for the MBTA. After about a year of vehicle testing, the first Type 8 entered service in 1999. The problems started soon afterwards. The brakes were no good and operators had a hard time stopping the trains. Legend has it that one car rolled uncontrollably down a hill and the operator had to use the emergency brake to stop it. The MBTA actually paid $3.25 million a piece for these things? And I thought Greenbush was a waste of money. There had been about dozen derailments before the MBTA decided to take action against the builder, Breda, in 2004.
After the legal dust settled, the MBTA and Breda decided that the T would take 85 of the 100 cars ordered and accept 15 "shells" to be used for spare parts. In 2007, the MBTA agreed to take ten more bringing the total to 95 cars.

The sad thing is that most riders have no idea about the Type 8's shady past. Many of them just get on and ride something that ought to be under the watchful eye of the National Transportation Safety Board. Well, they say "ignorance is bliss". If they did know, what would that do? Would there be a public outcry? Would we all just not care that much and go on with our lives? Who knows, who knows.

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