A 21st-century commuter-rail train enters testing

New coaches

The MBTA today released this photo of brand-new two-level coaches being tested on the Lowell Line, between Anderson and North Billerica. The four coaches, part of a larger order that's now two years late, should go into service this winter.

The coaches will let the T expand capacity by eliminating the current single-level coaches, but will not help with the sort of locomotive and switching problems that caused up to 60-minute delays on some lines into South Station this morning. The T has a separate order with a different company for new locomotives.

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what he said

The quality of life improvements for everyone who has to deal with the noise and diesel exhaust will be enormous. Having powered cars would also allow for more rapid-transit-like acceleration and braking, as well as redundancy in case of failures.

We also wouldn't have nearly as many problems with diesel fuel and the cold...

There's some out there

But largely they fail due to power-to-weight ratio. Carrying a battery around is a lot of work. The big advantage of electric traction is that the power can be generated remotely and delivered via wires to a relatively lightweight traction motor. You get all the power of an enormous generator and almost none of the weight. Quick acceleration and shorter braking distance makes for minimal loss of time due to station stops.

There's nothing modern or

There's nothing modern or efficient about diesel locos and bi-level coaches.

The T should have invested in Stadler DMUs. They're quick, fuel-efficient, can be run with fewer employees, and are a standard off-the-shelf product (so there wouldn't have been these endless delays).

Until recently, the Federal Railroad Administration wouldn't allow Euro-standard cars on the U.S. railroad network. But a commuter rail line in Dallas just got a waiver, since they proved that the Stadlers' compliance with Euro crash standards and the signal system would make them as safe as U.S.-standard cars.

Love the efficiency, but...

Genuine not-snarky question: how do they run with fewer employees? Most of the commuter rails I ride carry a staff of 3 or 4: 2-3 conductors and an engineer (sometimes 2, but most of the time it's just one guy). If you drop it below that number, you won't be able to collect fares from every open passenger car.

Overstaffing

If the T moved to Proof-of-Payment as they had promised once upon a time, then they could have a single conductor/inspector and a single engineer per train. Or even less, a single engineer and roving inspectors.

Many agencies around the world (including all German ones) use this system.

You could even go a step further and arrange fully automated train operation and move all personnel to inspection/off-board operation.

In addition to the fare

In addition to the fare collection issue, European DMUs are designed to have one employee operate the doors. The T's coaches require one conductor for every pair of cars at low platform stations.

I would dance and sing in

I would dance and sing in celebration for no more flat cars. They ALWAYS make the quiet car a flat if there is one on the train. More quiet seats is something to shout about (but not on the quiet car!)