New Muni Metro trains face billion-dollar vote

Muni riders may soon see fewer of these notices from SFMTA’s official Twitter starting in 2017:

A $1.2 billion contract with Siemens Industry Inc., to design, manufacture and deliver up to 260 new Muni light rail vehicles will be up for a vote at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors meeting on Tuesday.

John Haley, SFMTA director of Muni operations, said the new vehicles would replace the 151 aging current Breda light rail vehicles that are set to retire in 2021:

“This really is the big one, in terms of taking it a step forward to improve the heart of our system, which is the rail system.”

The first 24 vehicles would arrive 2016 through 2018 for the projected increased demand of Muni service when the Central Subway opens in 2019 and also in the Mission Bay neighborhood, according to the transit agency.

Another 151 vehicles are scheduled to arrive between 2021 and 2028. Haley said he knows Muni trains are getting more crowded:

“One of the biggest single ridership complaints we have is crowding and not enough service.”

The SFMTA has an option to purchase an additional 85 vehicles through 2040 to meet projected ridership growth and expand the system’s capacity, but funding has not been identified yet, said Haley.

Some of the funding for the first 24 vehicles will come from federal, state and local sources out of the Central Subway project budget.

The rest of the funding will come from future SFMTA revenue bonds.

Funding for the replacement of the 151 vehicles will come from federal grants and local matching funds from Proposition K and future revenue bonds.

Each vehicle will cost approximately $3.6 million.

Haley said the transit agency improved its process in seeking out new vehicles this time around, by the lessons learned 15 years ago.

He said the SFMTA conducted several outreach meetings with car builders before putting the proposal and process together.

The transit agency said it made sure it increased reliability requirements on vehicles parts such as doors, steps and couplers, the mechanical piece that connects trains.

The doors and steps on Muni’s current vehicles are usually the culprit for causing everyday delays in the subway.

Haley said the vehicles would be built in Sacramento where Siemens has a plant.

Aside from being built just 90 miles away, he said the company has a track record of building vehicles on time, which is one of reasons why he recommends the company for the contract.

CAF USA, Inc. also submitted a proposal to the SFMTA, but received a lower score compared to Siemens’ proposal.

If the SFMTA board approves the contract Tuesday, it will go to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for approval in September.

The first vehicle prototype could arrive in the City by end of 2016, said Haley.

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