New Metro trains one stop closer to reality

Muni riders who’ve experienced Metro delays because of shoddy doors can rest assured new light rail vehicles are closer to becoming a reality.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee approved a $1.2 billion contract for up to 260 new light rail vehicles with Siemens Industry, Inc. on Wednesday.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is planning to replace its current aging fleet of 151 light rail vehicles and meet expansion needs.

Director of Transit John Haley said the new light rail vehicles will be more reliable, lighter in weight and have better mechanical parts for the door:

“You all know that the doors in the current LRV fleet are the bane of our existence. They represent nearly 50 percent of the mechanical delay.”

Haley said the new electric door will have less moving parts and weigh less compared to the current doors, which have about 220 moving parts and weight 200 pounds.

He also said the entire weight of the vehicle will be about 4,000 pounds less than the current Breda trains.

The new vehicles’ average distance between breakdowns will also significantly increase to 58,000 miles — a far cry from 5,000 miles of Muni’s current fleet.

The breakdowns are costly too. A Budget and Legislative Analyst report said the transit agency spent $33.9 million in light rail vehicle maintenance and repairs between January and June of this year.

On average, 114 light rail vehicles are in service for the 173,500 riders who board the vehicles daily, while the remaining 37 get repaired.

Supervisor London Breed said getting complaints about Muni is not uncommon for her. She addressed some of maintenance issues with the current fleet:

“Some of our trains are damaged beyond repair. Many others rotate in and out of the shop because of too frequent maintenance problems, particularly with their notorious doors.”

She added:

“We have a fleet held together by duct tape and broken promises.”

Breed called the billion dollar contract a once in a generation investment in Muni:

“With this contract with Siemens, we will soon have a full, reliable fleet of 21st century trains for hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans who depend on Muni every single day.”

The first 24 vehicles will start arriving in 2017 to serve Muni’s Central Subway line. Another batch of vehicles should begin arriving in 2021 to begin replacing the current Breda vehicles.

Transit agency officials have identified $958 million for funding of 215 vehicles, but still needs $235 million for an additional 45 vehicles they want to purchase for expansion needs.

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