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Second wave of new Muni trains moves toward final approval

Transit officials are preparing for a second purchase of new Muni light rail vehicles with some design changes and new funding plugged into the project.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board issued initial approval of approximately $62 million that will go towards replacing all 151 Breda trains. The board will take a final vote at its April 23 meeting.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is working with the manufacturer to finalize costs of the second phase of the project, as transit officials want to retire the Breda trains earlier and accelerate the schedule of the new trains.

Julie Kirschbaum, acting director of transit with the SFMTA, told the board that the transit agency expects to have all 68 expansion Siemens vehicles by the summer. The expansion vehicles are being mixed in service with the Breda vehicles.

Kirschbaum said the early retirement of the Breda trains will greatly benefit subway service, since the old trains continue to limp through service each day:

“The biggest benefit is the risk that this minimizes on the Bredas. Not only are we experiencing failures on the Bredas, but the parts are becoming more and more obsolete.”

The accelerated schedule would retire the Breda trains six months early with the final new train arriving 18 months early.

There would be a cost associated with the accelerated scheduled, including approximately a $20 to $30 million cost of having the manufacturer to open a second plant to make the train shells, said Kirschbaum.

Transit officials will need to figure out how pay for those costs as the SFMTA had planned to spend all of its “windfall money” from the Education Augmentation Revenue Fund they received this year for costs related to the accelerated schedule.

Seating changes

Design changes will come to the next batch of trains based on passenger feedback the transit agency has received since the arrival of the new trains.

One of the most scrutinized features from Muni passengers is the flat bench style seating.

Kirschbaum presented the board plans to redo the seating to have more definition and to change the bench seating to more of an individualized or “Freedman” seat that would be similar to the seats inside new Muni buses.

As previously reported by SFBay, the transit agency plans to lower the seats by two inches, including on trains that have already arrived, and also provide different lengths of hand straps and an archway handhold in the middle of the train.

Changes inside the interior of the train will also take place.

The SFMTA plans to convert half of the longitudinal seats to single transverse seats inside the first 50 replacement trains while the 101 replacement trains will have double transverse seats.

On the new trains that are already here and in service. Kirschbaum said the transit agency will also change the bench seating to the Freedman seating, lower the seats, and convert half of the longitudinal seating to single transverse seats.

Before any of the changes are made, the SFMTA Board of Directors still needs to approve change orders to the contract, which the board expects to take up in May.

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  1. I am someone who is in favor of having a sufficient number of transverse seats in all new Muni rail cars. First of all, there are many people who NEED to sit in transverse seats due to having physical instabilities – people with disabling physical conditions and some seniors. Second, at least a quarter of the public prefers to sit in transverse seats which offer better back support, according to an informal survey I did of 400 Muni riders.

    The current Breda cars have 20-24 transverse seats in each car half, such that someone who is not disabled can usually give up a seat to someone needing one. If the new trains have only single transverse row options, disabled people and seniors might already be sitting in them, resulting in many other disabled people and seniors not being able to ride, as well as the healthy public not getting to ride in their preferred back-supportive seat. Shutting people out from being able to ride and from their preferred seat is going to make for a public disaster. I think we NEED double transverse seats in ALL new cars so everyone will have a chance to ride.

  2. quisqas2378 says:

    It is unfortunate that SFMTA is considering adding transverse seating despite most Muni riders having no problem with the current longitudinal seat alignment. What’s even more APPALLING is that under this current replacement proposals is that most of the new LRV4 replacement fleets will have the double transverse seating alignment in it. Putting in transverse seating is wrong for these new LRV4s, putting in transverse seating with a double pairs is just even more wrong on steroids that will further undermine the benefits of the improved space and comfort of the new LRV4s has provided.

  3. SFMTA is trying to make too many changes at the same time. Lower the seats, but keep them bench style. YES, people need time to get used to it but with their feet on the ground it’ll be less sliding. While dented seats can be more comfortable they are also less flexible in terms of space, and the current pole placement should be revised to better utilize bench seating. The idea of adding transverse seating to replace benches is also counterproductive. You effectively further reduce seating capacity, hamper passenger movements in trains and reduce the safety benefit of having people facing each other. Further, the people wanting these seats are likely not going to be able to get the seat they want many times because there are so few anyway. And lastly, the bus style seating, while comfortable is much more difficult to clean because of the crevices and gaps between seats.

    It’s shortsighted to give up so quickly on the present design. Yes there are some needed modifications, but let people try them first before modifying the entire fleet.

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