Muni needs to stretch Metro trains into 2020

The often unreliable Muni Metro light rail vehicles made by Breda will be around for at least another six years.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is getting new vehicles from Siemens Industry Inc. in a $1.2 billion contract, but those vehicles will not arrive until 2017. Even then, the transit agency still plans to use the Breda vehicles as the new ones arrive, said John Haley, director of transit.

Since Muni riders will continue to rely on the Breda vehicles to get around The City for several more years, Supervisor Scott Wiener wants the SFMTA to do everything it can to ensure the Breda vehicles are still functioning until most of the new vehicles arrive:

“Our light rail vehicles, the current Breda vehicles are workhorses in our system. They serve a significant percentage of Muni’s ridership both above ground and in the subway. It’s critical that these lines function.”

Wiener said Monday at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Development Committee that the constant breakdown of doors and of the propulsion system can be detrimental to the subway system:

“When they do fail, it tends to be pretty spectacular.”

He said vehicles do not get replaced when they break down, leaving Muni with an inadequate number of vehicles for service:

“We simply have to wait for the vehicle to be fixed.”

Haley said that the transit agency is working on several measures to make sure that the Breda vehicles are functioning including increasing operating training to fill all of the scheduled service, configuring more vehicles to add more capacity and improving communications with riders when delays do happen:

“One of the things we need to do is to help our workers, help our operators, help our station agents deal with delays and better make announcements.”

There has been some improvement with the average distance between failures rising from 2,800 miles from Sept. 2013 to 4,000 miles last month.

He also said that transit agency is stepping up the troubleshooting skills of those who respond first to subway delays.

Riders can also expect see more of the configured Muni trains where the transit agency converted 14 double seats to single seats to add more capacity to vehicles. Haley said the transit agency is working on converting 10 more trains in the next couple of months.

Muni riders may also hear station agents and operators make more announcements when it comes to major delays in the subway.

The transit agency is in the process of posting standardized delay announcements in station agent booths and in all vehicles, said Haley.

One of most common delays is when train doors breakdown. Thirty-five percent of delays are because of the malfunction of the vehicle doors, according to the transit agency.

Part of reason is the design and the other part is Muni riders. Haley said it was time for a cultural change to help riders understand that the impacts of holding or kicking the doors. The transit agency is working on a series of announcements to inform riders not to hold the doors open:

“We have to help people understand that when they hold doors open it has negative impact in a lot of different areas.”

The first 24 new vehicles from Siemens is scheduled to arrive between 2017 and 2018, according tot the transit agency.

Until then, Muni riders will just have wait a little longer and not hold or kick the doors anymore.