SFMTA approves billion-dollar Metro buy

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved Tuesday a $1.2 billion contract with Siemens Industry Inc. to replace Muni’s 151 aging light rail vehicles.

The new vehicles will help provide some stability in the Muni Metro where riders are often plagued with delays caused by mechanical issues on Muni’s current fleet of Breda light rail vehicles.

John Haley, SFMTA director of transit, emphasized to board members how important this vote was for the transit agency:

“The action we’re going put in front of you today will put us on a structured and long-term course to take care of our most immediate pressing service need right now to fix the very heart of our transit network.”

As SFBay previously reported, the first prototype of the new car could arrive by the end of 2016. Another 24 new cars would start arriving between 2017 and 2018 before the Central Subway opens in 2019.

Replacement rail cars would start trickling in between 2021 and 2027. The transit agency has an option to purchase an additional 85 rail cars if funding is identified.

Haley said the new rail cars will help with future ridership growth and expand service throughout the Muni Metro by increasing the rail fleet by 175.

Muni riders may also find less crowded trains with more trains available in the subway system.

Haley said the transit agency learned its lessons 15 years ago when the it last purchased the Breda light rail vehicles.

He said the transit agency took a step back and let the car builders show what they’re capable of, but made sure the trains are more reliable than Muni’s current rail cars.

For example, the doors on Muni’s Breda light rail vehicles, which have over 200 parts, are prone to breaking down and causing delays. The doors by Siemens has less than 20 parts, said Haley.

The new trains will also have black boxes to determine the cause of accidents.

Haley called Siemens an “industry leader in building cars” with a track record of building trains on time. The company plans to make the new Muni vehicles at its Sacramento plant.

The other company who submitted a proposal was CAF USA, Inc who filed an appeal with Federal Transit Administration on the award of the contract to Siemens.

The contract now heads to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for approval.

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