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WMATA delays 7000-series order to make it larger

On Thursday, the WMATA Board heard a report from staff on the procurement of the new 7000-series railcars. The Board decided to hold off approving the contract until it can decide on options for additional cars.


Image from WMATA.

Of the three companies vying to produce up to 748 railcars for Metro, Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc. scored highest on both technical capability and price, beating out Alstom, which recently built the 6000-series and rehabilitated the 2000- and 3000-series, and Bombardier.

While staff is recommending Kawasaki be chosen, the WMATA Board postponed their decision until mid-April, in order to have more time to consider finances.

The base order is for 64 railcars needed to run service on the first phase of the Silver Line, to Tysons Corner and Wiehle Avenue. The order also carries four options:

  1. 64 cars for Silver Line phase II to Dulles/Loudoun
  2. 130 cars for 75% 8-car train operation
  3. Rehabilitation of the 4000-series (100 cars)
  4. 300 cars to replace the aging 1000-series.
  5. 90 cars for 100% 8-car train operation when added to option 2
WMATA staff is currently proposing that Metro only exercise the Base Order and Option 4. The purchase of these 364 cars would cost about $765 million.

Currently, the Base Order is funded with money that comes from the Silver Line project and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. WMATA is also considering how to fund Option 4 through lines of credit and bond issues.

By exercising Option 4 at the time the Base Order is awarded, WMATA would save $5 million. For that reason, the Board held off making the decision on Thursday until they can decide how to fund Option 4.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

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Glad to see they've removed the proposed new logo from the exterior of the cars.

That said, the interiors sure do look sterile and ugly. Bring back the carpeting and solid-colored seats!

Also, if they're going to be implementing electronic stripmaps, they should copy the design used by NYC.

by andrew on Mar 29, 2010 12:51 pm • linkreport

I don't understand why they would run the newest cars on a line that is further out and has less chance of inducing gridlock in the system. If you have a break down on the Red line downtown it messes up 4 other Metro lines because it is necessary for the link between Gallery Place and Metro Center, and for linking to the MARC and Amtrak.

by SJE on Mar 29, 2010 12:51 pm • linkreport

Where is all this royal blue coming from? Has the committee considered how that would integrate with existing metro stations?

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 29, 2010 1:02 pm • linkreport

@SJE:
First off, the Silver Line does go downtown. It will run from Stadium-Armory to Wiehle Avenue (and perhaps Dulles eventually). That involves going through central stations like L'Enfant Plaza, Metro Center, Farragut West, and Rosslyn. As was pointed out in a post last year, the Orange/Blue subway is more congested in the peak direction during rush hours than is the Red Line (despite that it carries more people).
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post.cgi?id=4079

Secondly, no one ever said that the 7000-series will be confined to the Silver Line. Because the total distance of the rail system is being increased as is the ridership, the system as a whole will need more vehicles. That means that the jurisdiction responsible for expanding the system (Virginia, in this case) has to purchase new railcars for the system.

Some have speculated that the 7000-series will likely start out on the Green Line, because the Greenbelt Rail Yard is where they will be introduced to the system and undergo testing.

Eventually, you'll see them on all lines, especially once the 1000-series cars are replaced.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 29, 2010 1:03 pm • linkreport

To me, the Board should also consider timing as well as technical capabilities and price. If Kowasaki is going to take significantly longer to build the trains, that should be a factor in the decision process.

Additionally, Alstom has a proven their ability to build Metrorail cars (anybody have any complaints about the new 6000 series?) not to mention that they also do their final assembly at a factory in New York state. If there's a "buy American" requirement with government funding, that is sure to be a factor.

by Adam L on Mar 29, 2010 1:03 pm • linkreport

@Adam L:
There is often a reason that transit agencies don't purchase cars from the same builder twice. That said, the Alstom cars have done a great job over the past few years. But, the other competitors were going to charge at least $120 million more, so that's a problem right there.

Also, as for "buy American", Kawasaki will assemble their railcars at Lincoln, Nebraska, which is of course, in America.

Kawasaki has manufactured subway cars for SEPTA, PATH, and NYC Subways and also commuter rail cars for MARC, VRE, LIRR, Metro-North, and MBTA.

As for timing, the RFP has stipulated when the cars must arrive. If a manufacturer couldn't meet that goal, they would not have been qualified (the RFQ process comes before the RFP process).

by Matt Johnson on Mar 29, 2010 1:07 pm • linkreport

We can't delay the retiring 1000 series; they should be retired now as they to old, worn out and unsafe. So, stop wasting money on those old cars. They don't need to wait until they are 40 years old to retire them. In 4 years the 2000 series should be retired as well.

by Davin Peterson on Mar 29, 2010 1:07 pm • linkreport

If it saves money to make the entire purchase in bulk (and can't we negotiate that lower, manufacturers like Boeing often give significant discounts for bulk orders) then we should in fact order the batch all at once.

Enough of the nickle and diming. Start acting like a transit agency and do things right the first time.

by Redline SOS on Mar 29, 2010 1:08 pm • linkreport

@Davin Peterson:
Retiring the 1000-series right now (today) would mean a reduction of 25% in fleet size. That means 25% fewer trains, and severe overcrowding across much of the system. So, retiring them today is NOT an option.

Retiring them as soon as new vehicles are here to replace them IS an option, and it's one WMATA is pursuing with the 7000-series. It takes around 4-5 years to manufacture over 300 railcars, and according to WMATA's timeline, the cars will arrive to replace the 1000-series between 2014-2016.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 29, 2010 1:11 pm • linkreport

Maybe they can use the extra couple weeks to come up with a design that has continuous, articulated "married-quadruples."

by Erik W on Mar 29, 2010 1:24 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

Thanks for the information. I still say we play them against each other. Let's see who can get them here fastest. The quicker the 1000 series cars are pulled out of service, the better.

by Adam L on Mar 29, 2010 1:25 pm • linkreport

Didn't I read somewhere that the Kawasaki cars have to be operated in 4 car sets? How is that going to work with the elimination of 8 car trains?

by jcm on Mar 29, 2010 1:36 pm • linkreport

@jcm:
You did read that, yes. However, it's not just the Kawasaki cars. That specification was made by WMATA for all the 7000-series.

They are intended to be operated only as 8-car sets, according to Metro. They can be operated as 4-car sets, but that's an unlikely scenario. They are also not interoperable with the other series.

I don't know how Metro will deal with that particular budget item, but the elimination of 8-car trains is a budget thing today. It's probably not permanent (it's not even decided yet), and could be rescinded by 2014 when the 7000-series trains start to arrive.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 29, 2010 1:40 pm • linkreport

OK, thanks Matt.

by jcm on Mar 29, 2010 1:43 pm • linkreport

The delay is to consider (further) whether or not to exercise the apparently unfunded Option 4, for which they will save $5 (out of $765) million?

While saving money is good, it seems a bit odd that changing your order from 64 cars to 364 cars will only get you a one-half-of-one-percent discount. But if that's really the case, since it's a drop in the bucket, isn't really a great reason to hold anything up...

by Jamie on Mar 29, 2010 1:48 pm • linkreport

If they're going to delay delivery of these cars at all, why not redesign the typography, or any of the other objectionable design elements of these cars?

by J.D. Hammond on Mar 29, 2010 1:59 pm • linkreport

@JD Hammond, Erik W:
A substantial change in design would probably require redoing the RFP and design process. That would delay the cars by a year or so.

This delay is probably just going to be a month, while the Board thinks about how it's going to pay for the 300 cars for Option 4.

Typography and upholstery is not set in stone, and would be easily changed. I would point out that Metro did get rid of the "America's [M]etro" logo and replaced it with the traditional [M] over "metro" logo, although it's blue with white font.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 29, 2010 2:05 pm • linkreport

Matt, do you know if the $765M includes the cost of the test track they're planning to build?

by jcm on Mar 29, 2010 2:10 pm • linkreport

Erik brings up a good point: Articulated cars would be great.

by andrew on Mar 29, 2010 2:13 pm • linkreport

@jcm:
The $765M is just for the 364 railcars for the Base and Option 4. The commissioning facility (which would be located at Greenbelt Yard, with a test track extending almost to College Park) is projected to cost about $48M, and was originally slated to receive stimulus money, but that got diverted elsewhere. It is not included in that $765M pricetag.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 29, 2010 2:18 pm • linkreport

Mr. Peterson: The 2000 series cars were recently rehabilitated. Don't understand why you would want to retire them. They were done, along with the 3000 series cars to covert them to AC propulsion. They run great.

I've seen some discussion about the location of the new cars. When considering where to commission them, you have to consider space in the shops and a good test track close by. That eliminates many of the shops. The best places currently are out of Greenbelt and Alexandria. My choice would be with Greenbelt, since it has a large overhaul shop there too. The trains can be dispersed throughout the rail system in good time, but you need the consistency at first to have them near the home shop in order to efficiency provide better response from the venders that support the warranty and the test inspectors to review the work.

by Metro Observer on Mar 29, 2010 3:00 pm • linkreport

Based on the PPT from metro first car in service 7/14 all 364 cars by 3/16

Board Approval of Award 03/25/10
Award 03/26/10
Conceptual Design Review 06/15/10
Preliminary Design Review 05/15/11
Final Design Review 10/15/11
Pilot Car FAI 08/15/12
Pilot Car Delivery 12/15/12
Conditional Acceptance 07/15/13
Base Order 64 Cars Complete 04/01/14
Option (4) 300 Cars Begins 04/02/14
Option (4) 300 Cars Complete 03/01/16

by Will on Mar 29, 2010 4:00 pm • linkreport

I would love a completely new design for the next set of cars after these; why does every set of cars have to look the same on the inside & out except for a few changes or rails,poles, and colors.

I would love to see them use cars similar to the C class cars in Munich, driver-less cars manufactured by AnsaldoBredaor.

Are there any plans to ever include articulated trains ?

by kk on Mar 29, 2010 4:38 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the correction. My concern is with the number of people inconvenienced by a delay, and total hours lost, rather than numbers. If you are just going Metro-Metro, then a 15 minute delay is just that. If that 15 minute delay stops you reaching Union station in time, then it is suddenly an hour or more delay because you missed your MARC/Amtrak. OTOH, Orange/Blue connects to VRE twice and to National, so perhaps Orange/Blue does trump Red.

by SJE on Mar 29, 2010 5:18 pm • linkreport

I am a fan of Metro, but these cars look pretty terrible in my opinion. The interiors remind me of a worn out LA bus or the Chicago EL. Or even being in an ER at a hospital, pretty sterile. Especially after aging for five years, I can't envision the excessive stainless steel, ultra white flourescent lights, and what appear to be pretty uncomfortable seats...being appealing at all. Perhaps the redesign is somehow easier to maintain, but honestly I like the current cars. They deliver a quality component to the rider experience. I cannot see stainless steel cars meshing well with Metro station architecture either, particularly after they get banged up and dented a bit, and after a snowstorm when the cars are a muddy gray-brown. But the exterior appearance is not as important as the interior.

by LA on Mar 29, 2010 6:34 pm • linkreport

Few comments...

1. The floor carperting that has been one of Metro's signature item (because no other Major metropolitan system has it) is horribly expensive. Every few years metro talks about swithcing to standard rubber matting but never does. The carpet requires constant maintenance and doesn't last long and is expensive to replace. Commercial rubber mat flooring, like what is used on buses should be used here.

2. I hope the seating arrangement in this PDF is just a concept. Metro has debated for a decade the best way to increase available rider volume without increasing the number of cars. They need to remove some additional seating, and those door knee walls to provide more standing room.

3. I find it ridiculous, that in this current economic climate, with commodity prices in the basement and steel (the biggest material expense for the cars) at prices not seen in 15 years, that it costs 2.1 million per car. And that doubling the number from ~360 to 750 only results in savings of a couple percent. We aren't building a mag-lev car here. The structure and drive technology is straight out of the 60's. It's basically a light-freight rail car with some seats and led lights, what in gods name costs so much?

Thats not to say I am not happy that we are getting a new fleet of cars, it just seems that we are missing out in a once in a generation opportunity to get the design we've always wanted for a price we won't ever see again in our lifetimes. But hey, thats just me.

by nookie on Mar 30, 2010 9:14 am • linkreport

@nookie... since $39,000 only gets you four wheels on a piece of corrugated steel these days, the $2 million per car didn't surprise me.

But being curious I just googled it. According to this, the average price for a freight rail car is around $84,000.

That's pretty insane. Really. We paid $39K for an "emergency response vehicle" that looks basically like a low-tech go-cart, and a whole freight car only costs twice that?

Yeah - the $2 million figure does seem way out of line. But so is the $39K.

Of course, $4 million only gets you a single Bikestation too so what do I know.

by Jamie on Mar 30, 2010 9:23 am • linkreport

Jaime, a freight rail car is just dead weight. Metro cars are multiple unit cars, meaning each car is its own locomotive.

by Alex B. on Mar 30, 2010 9:26 am • linkreport

Interesting. It looks like an electric locomotive that is designed for hauling massive trains is about $9 million.

I'm assuming that you could build one that can only needs to haul 6 or 8 cars for a lot less.

But even at $9 million for a locomotive, plus a few hundred grand per dead-weight car, an 8-car metro train would run you about $11 or $12 million versus the $16 million we now pay at $2 million per car.

How many metro systems operate like Metro, with each car being it's own engine, versus an engine/car setup? It doesn't seem like a very cost effective design.

by Jamie on Mar 30, 2010 9:41 am • linkreport

Jamie,

A freight rail car is a box with wheels on it.

A Metro car has:
- Propulsion system
- An interior (seats, heat/AC, flooring, lights, etc.)
- Safety standards

by MLD on Mar 30, 2010 9:44 am • linkreport

@ Jamie,

EVERY metro system operates like metro does - there isn't a single one that has an engine pulling cars.

Freight rail requirements and metro requirements are completely different. And those requirements go beyond the service you see as a rider.

by MLD on Mar 30, 2010 9:48 am • linkreport

Pretty much every subway in the world uses multiple unit trains. Several commuter railroads and even high speed trains use them as well.

The offer greater operational efficiencies - it's like all wheel drive on a car. All of the wheels turn at once, allowing for quicker acceleration, which is important in subway operations with lots of stops and starts.

by Alex B. on Mar 30, 2010 9:57 am • linkreport

I didn't realize that, it does make the per-car cost make a little more sense. Still, it's surprising that the discount for ordering ten times as many cars is so insignificant.

by Jamie on Mar 30, 2010 10:05 am • linkreport

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