BART Train Plant Moving to Pittsburg, CA

No longer will it be necessary to ship "fleet of the future" from New York

Bombardier, maker of BART's new trains, has leased this train factory in Pittsburg. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
Bombardier, maker of BART's new trains, has leased this train factory in Pittsburg. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick

It’s cruel environmental irony, but the first thing a new BART “fleet of the future” train car does after rolling out of the factory is burn lots of fuel oil getting trucked across the country. That’s because up until now, units were built at train-builder Bombardier’s plant in Plattsburgh, NY. And because of BART’s non-standard-gauge wheels, it’s impossible to roll them to the Bay Area on a freight train. Bombardier could hoist the BART trains onto flat-bed train cars, but apparently it’s cheaper just to use trucks.

All of that will change in September, when Bombardier starts constructing trains at a plant in Pittsburg, CA, owned by Breda Transportation and currently used by Hitachi Rail Italy to build trains for Honolulu’s new light-metro system. Bombardier will take over as soon as Hawaii’s new trains are finished.

“We’re building 775 new rail cars for BART. As of now, 90 have been built in New York and shipped,” said Elliot Sander, President of Bombardier Transportation, at a press event held at the Breda plant this morning. “What was 3,000 miles will be 50 miles… with a great reduction in emissions from the trucks.”

Tracks embedded in the factory floor. However, even these are useless for making BART trains, thanks to BART's non-standard gauge wheels and track
Tracks embedded in the factory floor. However, even these are useless for making BART trains, thanks to BART’s non-standard gauge wheels and track

The trains, according to a BART spokesperson, will be trucked from this new location to the Hayward BART yard, where they will be tested and eventually brought into service.

As seen in the above photos, Bombardier used one of the new trains, which was on its way from New York to Hayward, as a backdrop for the press function.

Sander explained that the move to the new plant will grow Bombardier’s presence in California. The company already maintains the AirTrain people mover at San Francisco International Airport, and does work on commuter rail services in Southern California.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to note that the trains that are currently built at the facility for Honolulu’s system are driverless, so when that city’s rail system opens next year, train service will be far more frequent than BART, without additional labor costs. District 2 BART director Mark Foley, who also spoke at this morning’s press event, told Streetsblog automated trains are something BART should look at too. “We have to be nimble and flexible, not short sighted of this need.”

A driverless train gift wrapped and read to ship to Hawaii. When these trains are finished, Bombardier will move in to make the rest of BART's 'fleet of the future'
A driverless train gift wrapped and ready to ship to Hawaii. When the last of these trains are finished, Bombardier will move in to make the rest of BART’s ‘fleet of the future’

Assemblymember Tim Grayson, who also spoke at the event, praised the move’s potential for reducing delays in train delivery and reducing greenhouse gas emissions overall. And by providing jobs in Pittsburg, “people will have places they can live, work and play” all in the same location, he added.

“This is just down the street from the BART line,” said Foley. “This reduces our carbon footprint and lets us lead by example.”

But as the executives, lawmakers and administrators extolled the environmental value of the move and of transit overall, Streetsblog couldn’t help but notice all the cars, as seen in this photo (many more cars were parked outside):

Apparently everyone, except Streetsblog, drove to the new train factory to give speeches about the importance of transit to reducing greenhouse gases
Apparently everyone, except Streetsblog, drove to the new train factory to give speeches about the importance of transit to reducing greenhouse gases. More cars, including quite a few gas guzzlers, were parked outside

The new factory is only two miles from the newly opened BART station at Pittsburg Center. Streetsblog pointed out that there’s is basically no bike infrastructure between Pittsburg Center and the factory. What bike lanes exist are no more than a few gutter-pan stripes that start and stop abruptly. And the street that goes to the plant, Loveridge Road, doesn’t even have sidewalks.

Loveridge road, near the factory entrance, doesn't have much love for bicycle, scooters, or pedestrians
Loveridge Road, near the factory entrance, has just a little love for bicycles and perhaps scooters, but none at all for pedestrians

The bus trip from the BART station is so circuitous it takes  around 40 minutes, not counting wait time.

“We’ll have to take a look at that,” said Sander. Grace Crunican, BART’s general manager who will retire next month, added that “We’ll be happy to work on that.”

Of course, Streetsblog first called out the lack of pedestrian or bike facilities around BART’s Antioch extension last year when it opened. So far, no improvements are evident.

  • david vartanoff

    back to the future as BART’s new assembly location is where their last cars were built.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    “with a great reduction in emissions from the trucks”

    This is nuts. Does anybody not on a PR team seriously believe this bullshit?

    Ask yourself: HOW DO ALL THE TRAIN COMPONENTS GET TO THIS JOKE FACTORY?

    Solar-powered unicorns, one must presume.
    And don’t forget to buy local with on site iron-ore and aluminium mines and smelters in Pittsburg

    The only reason these Potemkin facilities are erected is as a vote-buying exercise by vendors, with a half-dozen hard hat types trucked in to say “jobs jobs jobs”. There aren’t any jobs — there’s just a sucking sound of taxes disappearing into contractor pockets, almost entirely at the executive and shareholder levels.

    All this “build local” and, even worse, “Buy American” kick-backery does is inflate costs by a factor of two or more while delivering late, unreliable, obsolete and unmaintable junk that nobody anywhere else in the word would consider buying at any cost. There is no economic gain, no “expertise”, no “technology transfer”, no “local knowhow” — there’s just shoddy duplication and inflation.

    What a great trade-off: immeasurably trivial (do the math!) amounts of trucking somehow “saved” versus having cheaper working reliable trains in service many years ago.

  • Bill Hilton

    Why is this? “What was 3,000 miles will be 50 miles… with a great reduction in emissions from the trucks”. BART goes to Pittsburg. Why do the cars have to be trucked 50 miles from a Pittsburg factory site?

  • Nicholas L

    The ghost hydrant is creepy.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Some of the new cars had to go back to New York for rework. At least this way it will be shorter (and faster).

  • DrunkEngineer

    You are really missing the point. The cars shouldn’t ever have to go in for rework. That’s the problem with these special-purpose “Buy-America” factories.

  • Tony Pignaloni

    im guessing you missed this point. BART does not use standard guage. their wheel spacing is wider than stanard guage railroad track. so, therefore, it cannot go by rail to reach bart.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I guess his question was why they can’t truck it 1 mile to the Pittsburg BART yard instead, but I gather they can’t just throw these things into service; they have to exercise them at the Hayward yard first.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Just trying to find the silver lining here, pal.

  • Ming

    There’s an empty train factory sitting there with experienced train assembly workers who will, presumably, be unemployed after the Honolulu train order is finished. Given that California is paying close to a billion dollars for these trains, and Bombardier is really behind on fulfilling the train order, I think it’s entirely reasonable for them to move some of the production there in order to accelerate things. It’s hard building a new factory and training new employees. It’s a really convenient coincidence that Bombardier is so late with its order that the California factory became available.

  • Fslla

    why cant BART put them on the track and tow them, say at 3am, before revenue service?
    Since we moved the hours for the Transby tube, there should be plenty of time

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