Muni moves to replace light rail vehicles

Broken doors, stuck steps and propulsion problems are just some of the mechanical issues on Muni Metro trains that riders are all too familiar with.

A door malfunctioning in the Metro during peak service can become a Muni rider’s worst nightmare.

Some relief, though, is coming for Muni Metro riders in the form of new light rail vehicles.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is starting the process of replacing its 151 Breda light rail vehicles, which have been in service for 15 years. Existing trains are scheduled for retirement starting in 2021.

The transit agency’s board approved a request for bids from three venders for 260 new vehicles at its Tuesday meeting. Kawasaki, Siemens and CAF were pre-qualified to submit bids. AnsaldoBreda, the current maker of Muni’s light rail vehicles, did not qualify.

The first 24 trains are scheduled to arrive between 2016 to 2018 to support the increased service when the Central Subway opens in 2019 and system-wide growth, according to the transit agency.

The rest of trains would be delivered between 2021 through 2028 to replace 151 current light rail vehicles.

The transit agency is also looking beyond 2020 by adding an option to include up to additional 85 light rail vehicles to meet projected ridership growth through 2040 if funding is available.

The Central Subway project and revenue bonds issued by the SFMTA will fund the first dozen vehicles with $26 million. Majority of funding for the replacement vehicles will come from federal grants with the rest coming from local funding and revenue bonds.

While the new trains probably won’t be in service for another six years, the transit agency and Muni riders will have to deal with the current trains.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development committee held a hearing Monday on the current state of Muni’s light-rail vehicles at the request of Supervisor Scott Wiener:

“Our LRVs carry significant of Muni’s daily passenger load. They are a critical part of our public transportation system. Unfortunately the state of Muni’s LRVs is not particularly a happy one.”

John Haley, transit director of operations, said the on-time performance in the Metro is around 50 percent with one in five trains having a gap in service of minutes or more.

Mechanical issues makeup 71 percent of delays in the Metro. Most of the delays are caused by doors and steps malfunctioning followed by issues with the propulsion.

Capacity is also another issue in the Muni Metro during peak service hours. Haley said the transit agency has been testing out a three-car shuttle in the Metro. He said there will be final test later this month before it goes into service.