SFMTA Chief Nat Ford was joined by members of the SFMTA Board, representatives from AnsaldoBreda and federal officials at an unveiling today of the first Muni light-rail vehicle to be refurbished using federal stimulus funds, part of a $56 million project to upgrade the agency’s fleet of 143 LRVs.
“It’s going to help us keep our passengers safer and make the system more reliable,” said SFMTA Director Cheryl Brinkman, who added that Muni’s LRVs serve 160,000 passengers a day and 50 million passengers a year, or 20 percent of Muni’s overall ridership.
The “LRV Doors and Steps Reconditioning Project” is using $9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (AARA) funds, and the project was expected to result in “60 new hires or jobs retained.”
While Muni riders won’t notice anything new when they step onto the interior of car 1412, the steps and doors system, automatic couplers and air supply units have been rebuilt, and the articulation pins and wire harnesses have been replaced. For passengers, Ford said it will mean a more comfortable ride.
“We will have more reliable vehicles with more distance between failures,” said Ford. “That really increases our fleet in some aspects, so where we’ll have a percentage of our vehicles in the shop because they failed while in service, there will be less of that type of situation and on top of that, for example, when they do make a repair, it’s much quicker and it’s faster.”
Getting the remaining LRVs renovated and back into the system won’t happen overnight, though. The agency estimates it will take six years to get all the cars up to snuff. Ford said the SFMTA is also trying to identify funding to make improvements to the interiors of the trains and is working with AnsaldoBredo to come up with an estimate for that.
Ford said renovating the fleet is something the agency is required to do by the federal government, but the SFMTA will also begin planning for the future to replace the current Breda cars with lighter, low-floor vehicles.
“A light-rail vehicle with proper maintenance and a midlife overhaul, which we’re doing now, is expected to last 25 years, on average,”he said. “So, we’re going to extend the life of that vehicle another 12 to 13 years, but during that time frame we are beginning to talk about the vehicle of the future . It will take us, to replace this entire fleet, a process that could take between 8 to 12 years, from design, delivery, acceptance and actual revenue service. So, we have to begin that process right now.”