Rail Car Calamity: BART will get a decade of use out of cars meant for San Jose extension on VTA’s dime

In yet another unintended consequence of the repeated delays facing San Jose’s BART extension, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is purchasing 48 rail cars for the South Bay that will run throughout the BART system and have the wear and tear of more than a decade of use before they ever travel through downtown San Jose and up to Santa Clara.

The VTA Board of Directors last week narrowly approved the $172.6 million purchase for the cars that will eventually run on the six-mile, four-station extension from the Berryessa Transit Center in north San Jose. But the transaction, which came to light now due to a soon-to-be expired deal with BART to get the cars at a discounted rate, faced pushback from many of the directors — even some who voted in favor.

The issue boils down to timing. The 48 cars are expected to be delivered in 2026, which was when the second phase of the Silicon Valley extension was originally supposed to open. However, the project has faced multiple delays and escalating costs, and now won’t open until 2037 if all goes according to the current plan.

Keeping the cars in storage isn’t an option, according to Tom Maguire, VTA’s chief megaprojects officer.

“The cars actually need to run,” he said. “They’ll depreciate faster if they’re not running.”

Instead, the 48 rail cars will be integrated into BART’s current fleet and run system-wide for at least a decade before the next phase even opens. VTA will also have to shell out $4 million every year to cover operating and maintenance costs on the cars.

“By the time we get these by our service date, they will have a quarter of their life used up, and we will be having to pay $40 million for all the maintenance for cars we didn’t use,” Santa Clara Councilmember Suds Jain told VTA officials last week when the purchase came up for a vote. “I don’t know if BART is looking at future designs or contracting for other orders, but it just seems that we’re giving these to BART without getting much back.”

In the long run, though, Maguire said it’s cheaper, and that waiting could be an additional risk factor that the Federal Transit Administration — which VTA is banking on funding some of the project — may not like.

“The economics of transit rail car and fleet purchases are very much driven by large-volume orders.Typically, properties order 700 to 800 cars at a time when they buy cars for heavy rail systems,” Maguire said. “The price we would get for a 48-car order would be extremely uncompetitive with what we’re looking at now.”

Maguire estimates that they could pay upwards of $450 million if they wait and try to purchase them through a non-BART contracted rate.

But the reasoning wasn’t satisfying enough for some members of the VTA board, including Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee, who expressed concerns that the four-year warranty will be up before the South Bay even uses the rail cars.

“If I have a child …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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