Maintenance Diaries: What it takes to keep our system running

What is being done to make the system more reliable? How much maintenance work is required to keep the system running?

As a member of the team who monitors Metro’s primary Twitter streams and issues real-time service alerts from the Rail Operations Center, I see these kinds of questions on a regular basis. And I know how service changes can mess up someone’s day.

Many of our riders have even asked when maintenance work will end. The short answer is: it won’t.

Because Metro operates on a massive scale, covering Los Angeles County with more than 15,000 bus stops and 105 miles of rail, routine maintenance is necessary to help reduce wear and tear on buses and rail cars. On average, all six rail lines travel about 5,045,270 miles per year while operating at least 20 hours each and every day. Each bus travels about 42,000 miles per year. That’s over three times the average annual mileage of most peoples’ cars!

Regular upkeep is also needed for a better riding experience — to keep rail cars and buses clean, the air conditioning working and all the things that go into a smoother ride. Plus, regular maintenance lengthens the lifespan of our transit vehicles which are extremely expensive to buy. Metro’s most recent purchase — approved by the Metro Board in June — was for compressed natural gas buses that cost about $674,576 each and electric buses that cost $1.46 million apiece. Ideally, Metro replaces buses every 14 years.

The average life-span of a train car is 30 years. Seventy-eight of the new light rail trains from Kinkisharyo were recently purchased for $299 million. A new contract was signed in April to purchase 64 heavy rail cars for $178 million.

So what is Metro doing to keep your system running? A lot, and it’s too much to cover in just one post. In addition to our usual maintenance work, Metro now has dedicated funding from the Measure M sales tax approved by L.A. County voters last year for a State of Good Repair program — something most agencies do not have.

Over the next several months, I’ll be sharing exactly what our efforts are through the Maintenance Diaries series with behind-the-scenes photos and videos as we visit bus divisions and rail yards. We’ll take an in depth look at the work it takes to keep our trains and buses moving 24/7/365.

Here’s a quick list of some, but certainly not all, of the topics we’re planning to cover. Let us know in the comments below which one you’re most interested in! 

  • Maintenance Diaries: Preparing trains for service at the Blue Line Rail Yard.
  • Maintenance Diaries: How Metro trains are powered.
  • Maintenance Diaries: Metro’s Central Maintenance Bus Facility.
  • Maintenance Diaries: A look inside the Red Line Rail Yard.
  • Maintenance Diaries: How bus service is restored after a breakdown.
  • Maintenance Diaries: What makes a train run smoothly?

11 replies

  1. As a frequent bus rider, I would be interested in knowing about how the central bus maintanence facility works and what work is actually preformed there. In addition, I would like to know, especially, how buses are gotten back on time after a break-down. I would, additionally like to know what is done to get trains, light rail in particular, back on time after a disruption of service.

    • i am currently a mechanic here at CMF. We do alot of maintenance here consisting of Midlife projects where buses get a face lift, major components such as brake systems, steering systems, differentials, dash boards and other things are changed out to new components. we also have a running repair shop that takes out old engine packages and replaces them with new packages. we also to burn and accident buses where buses are stripped down and rebuilt to make them look as if nothing ever happened. We also to division support, as we have all the resources and manpower we can and not worry about roll out but we can focus on the task at hand.

      • Erik, that sounds like a very impressive facility with very skilled and dedicated workers. That is an amazing job you do and without it, our system would not be running as smoothly as it does. Thanks for your service.

  2. I am looking forward to reading all the above Diaries you listed. I would also like to hear more about the incident reporting system and process. I was reading in the annual review that the operator reporting of an incident and giving more details as being a key part of improvement in the years ahead. The better format you have for the operator to complete when reporting an operation incident, the better the maintenance team can troubleshoot and improve service in the long run.

  3. Looking forward to these topics in the upcoming Maintenance Diaries series! Would be nice to get some posts relating to the era’s of the SCRTD.

  4. Dear Lexi , I use METRO several times a month. Most o the time, I use METRO RAIL when ever possible. I always find the buses and METRO RAIL cars, clean and in good working order. Last week, I rode METRO RAIL car #100, now almoat 28 years old. I found the #100 to be in good as new condition, It was clean, fast, SMOOTH, viberation free, and the air conditioning working very well. I could not ask for anything more of a 28 year public transit vehicle . Keep up the good work.. Ralph Cantos

  5. All of them! In order of interest:
    Maintenance Diaries: How Metro trains are powered.
    Maintenance Diaries: What makes a train run smoothly?
    Maintenance Diaries: Metro’s Central Maintenance Bus Facility.
    Maintenance Diaries: Preparing trains for service at the Blue Line Rail Yard.
    Maintenance Diaries: A look inside the Red Line Rail Yard.
    Maintenance Diaries: How bus service is restored after a breakdown.