BART plans to buy a slick new ride – 260 new rail cars – for about $1 billion in May. The cars will sport a sleek modern look, cleaner seats, digital information displays, even air conditioning that works on hot days. And if transit officials are pleased, and can come up with another $2 billion or so, they’ll buy another 515 cars.
After years of planning and scrounging for funding, BART is ready to lurch forward with the start of its plans to replace its 669-car fleet of rail cars, most of which are about to turn 40. The rail fleet is the oldest in the nation.
“Even on the most optimistic schedule, by the time we are able to replace all of our cars, many of them will be 50 years old,” said Paul Oversier, BART’s assistant general manager for operations.
Oversier expects the BART board to award a contract in May, and the contractor will produce 10 pilot cars for testing, with the first delivered at the start of 2015. The cars will be tested for eight months before the manufacturer is allowed to start full production. The first cars are expected to arrive in September 2016 with the last of the batch arriving by the end of 2018. All 775 cars would be delivered by 2023.
The new cars will still feature the traditional brushed aluminum exterior but it will be broken up with color, including signs to indicate which line the train serves. Each car will have three doors to speed boarding, but will still have 60 seats, all made of an easier-to-clean material. Seats will be reconfigured with standard seating in rows at each end of the car, and seats situated more informally around standing areas and places for wheelchairs, bikes and luggage in the center.
BART began the replacement effort in earnest in the past year, soliciting passenger suggestions through workshops, surveys and online. About 10,000 people have offered advice. The agency hired BMW Group Designworks to help design the cars, and solicited offers from companies interested in building them.
Five firms – none from the United States – expressed interest, and BART has narrowed the field to three: Alstom, of France; Bombardier, of Canada; and Hyundai Rotem, of South Korea. BART is in negotiations, trying to bargain the best deal on a variety of factors with price the most important.
Based on initial bids, the cost to build each new rail car will be about $3 million for the first batch of 260 but the overall price will drop to about $2.5 million if all 775 are manufactured. Other costs, including design, project management, cost escalation and reserves, account for the rest of the $1 billion.
“If we, as a region, are able to fund the entire project, we will get a lot more for our money,” Oversier said.
BART will pay for the initial 260 cars with $870 million in regional funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the rest from its own budget. The overall plan is for the commission to cover about $2.4 billion with BART paying about $800 million. Neither agency has firm plans for finding those funds, but it’s likely voters would be asked to approve a tax to help foot the bill.
While the cars will be built by a foreign company, BART will follow federal Buy America requirements, which require at least 60 percent of the components in each car to be made in the United States and all assembly to take place domestically. In addition, the transit agency got state legislation passed to allow it to give extra consideration to bidders who exceed the minimum.
But federal law prohibits BART from giving special consideration to companies that promise to manufacture the cars in the Bay Area or California, much to the chagrin of some MTC members, who were given a presentation Wednesday.
“This is Bay Area taxpayers’ money,” said commissioner Scott Haggerty, an Alameda County supervisor, who suggested using the former Nummi plant in Fremont. “It’s really important that these rail cars be built in the Bay Area.”
Oversier said BART is “committed to using the bully pulpit as much as possible to get the jobs in the Bay Area.”
E-mail Michael Cabanatuan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page C – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday, 12jan12.