New Muni Metro trains on track for 2016 arrival

New, bright, shiny and reliable.

Muni Metro riders tired of suffering through delays because of broken doors or steps should know that more-dependable light rail vehicles are on their way to San Francisco.

SFMTA documents show Muni’s first train will arrive by the end of 2016 and put into service by the fall of 2017.

Siemens Industry Inc. is in the process of manufacturing all of the Municipal Transportation Agency’s new 151 light rail vehicles (LRV4) and 42 additional vehicles to expand the light rail fleet at its manufacturing plant in Sacramento that will replace Muni’s current Breda vehicles.

Mayor Ed Lee joined Assemblyman David Chiu, Supervisor London Breed, SFMTA and Siemens officials, to tour the manufacturing plant on Monday.

John Haley, SFMTA’s director of transit, has made it public for a number years now that the Breda vehicles have mechanical issues, especially with the doors and steps of the trains — the single biggest causes of delays.

Haley has previously said the new train doors would have fewer than 20 parts — compared to the 200 parts on the current fleet of Breda trains. The new trains will also weigh less and are projected to run thousands of more miles before a breakdown occurs.

Also featured in the new trains is longitudinal seating, which will provide more standing room for Muni riders, but maximum capacity will remain about 200 passengers, the same as Muni’s current vehicles.

Paul Harvey, director of light rail production at Siemens, said the new vehicles flooring will be easier to clean and maintain. The trains also feature LED lighting, he said:

“The lighting system can detect ambient light situations. It can change the color of the hue and the brightness of the light depending on the conditions outside.”

Harvey also touted the air conditioning in the new vehicles, calling the system “phenomenal.”

The first vehicle is in the final assembly process where crews will test each system of the train. Within a month, the train will get tested on Siemens’ quarter-mile test track, said Michael Cahill, Siemens president of rolling stock.

Muni of course will follow up by testing its new vehicle on its own tracks and system.

Funding, though, is still needed to buy the rest of the expansion vehicles needed to meet future public transit demands.

The transit agency has funds to replace its Breda fleet along with 42 additional vehicles, but wants 22 more to bring the total to 64 expansion vehicles.

Last week, the California State Transportation Agency awarded the SFMTA $45 million in cap-and-trade funds, which will help buy 10 additional light rail vehicles. Last year, the SFMTA received $41 million from the same funds.

Both Lee and SFMTA’s Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said the transit agency is looking at all local regional, state and federal funding that the transit agency could apply for.

San Francisco voters though will be able to decide this November to pass Proposition J and K. Prop. J would establish a transportation improvement fund in The City’s charter and a homeless and housing services fund. Prop. K would increase the sales tax in The City by three-quarters of one percent to help fund Prop. J.

Lee said he has confidence all of the old trains will get replaced and be more reliable for Muni riders:

“I think for us to say to the public with confidence that we’re going to be able to replace all of the trains, to have them less maintenance intense and to have these trains be designed in a way which they’ll meet the modern needs of our ridership, I think is a very good investment.”

Breed jokingly asked Reiskin that the new trains first go to her district:

“And these trains are the first trains will first go to the N-Judah?”

She added:

“I’m going to be on the first train welcoming passengers onto the new train at Carl and Cole. ”

How to Make A New Muni Train

The first process of building a new Muni train is the welding of the train’s steel frame or the skeleton of Muni train. Mark Bennett, vice president of operations, said it takes approximately four weeks for welders to complete one shell.

Cahill said welders go through a vigorous training class before starting work on a project. The company has an on-site school for welders to learn each weld. After the learning process, Siemens test the welders and certify those who pass. Welders who did not pass return to the school:

“We put in a lot of effort and investment into the welders because obviously at the end of the day if the structure isn’t right it doesn’t matter what else is right.”

The next stop is through the sub-assembly where work is done on electrical racks, panels and wiring that will go inside the vehicle.

Bennett said at least a third of all the labor hours come from this portion of the assembly of the vehicle. Workers inside are also labeling all the wires that will eventually end up inside a vehicle.

During the final process, doors, steps, seats, the operator cabin, flooring, lights, paint color scheme, hand poles and all the electrical wiring are put inside and outside of the vehicle.

Muni’s first 24 vehicles are to arrive between 2017 and 2018. The rest of the vehicles will arrive in different phases, according to SFMTA documents.