Metro Board approves contract to purchase new light rail cars

A $299-million contract to purchase 78 new light rail vehicles from Kinkisharyo International, LLC, was approved Monday afternoon by the Metro Board of Directors on a 8 to 1 vote.

The approval is pending resolution of two protests filed with Metro by firms that did not win the bid as well as no negative responses from the Federal Transit Administration before the protests are resolved.

The contract also includes four options to buy another 157 light rail vehicles for $591 million for a total contract value of $890 million for 235 new rail cars. Metro staff had recommended Kinkisharyo after spending the past year evaluating bids. (Renderings of the new cars are above and after the jump).

Board Member Jose Huizar voted against the contract and Board Member Richard Katz abstained. Members Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas were absent and Board Chair Antonio Villaraigosa could not participate in the discussion due to a conflict of interest.

Metro CEO Art Leahy opened the special Board meeting by saying that agency has fallen several years behind its procurement of new rail light rail vehicles and that the agency does not have enough vehicles at this time to operate the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension. Both projects are under construction and could be complete by 2015.

An effort to buy 100 new rail cars ended in late 2009 when a potential deal with another manufacturer fell apart.

Under the new contract with Kinkisharyo, 28 of the new rail cars are scheduled to be delivered by 2015 and a total of 62 by May 2016. If the four options are fulfilled, the delivery of the 235 total rail cars would be complete by Feb. 2020.

The new rail cars will also replace 69 aging vehicles currently in use on the Blue Line.

Kinkisharyo International, LLC, is based in Massachusetts and is a subsidiary of Kinki Sharyo Company of Osaka, Japan. The firm, according to Metro staff, has been awarded 15 contracts in the U.S. to build 684 light rail vehicles, including recent contracts to supply rail lines in Phoenix, Dallas and Seattle.

The other two firms — Siemens Industry, Inc., and CAF USA, Inc. — bid on the contract and both filed protests with Metro after agency staff recommended Kinkisharyo. Siemens officials and many members of the public who testified to the Board said that the Siemens bid would create more U.S. jobs.

Using federal guidelines to evaluate the bids, Metro staff concluded that the Kinkisharyo bid would create about $138.8 million in U.S. job value and the Siemens bid would create about $140.6 million. Current federal rules prohibit local transit agencies from considering local job creation in rail car contracts — the rules are intended to prevent local transit agencies from potentially using federal funds to take jobs from other c
ities in the U.S.

Metro is planning to secure $240 million in federal funds to help pay for the new rail cars.

Metro staff also concluded that:

•Kinkisharyo presents the lowest risk to the delivery schedule of the new light rail cars.

•Kinkisharyo offers the best technical proposal for all rail car systems, overall car design and integration.

•Kinkisharyo has the best program management team by experience and resource capability in the U.S.

•Kinkisharyo will create a high value of new U.S. jobs, and will move manufacturing of option vehicle car shells to the U.S.


24 replies

  1. This comment is regarding the design of the the LRT. Looking at the last image, I am excited to see that the two seats by the doors can fold up – similar to the same seats in the metros of Paris that automatically fold up when no one is sitting on it. It just makes sense. It comes in handy when the train car starts getting full. People who are currently sitting in those seats would stand up to make room for more people to board. At least, that is the etiquette in Paris. I have a feeling in L.A., it will be folded up for different reasons (i.e. to make room for wheelchairs, bikes, strollers, and people with luggage). I just hope there will be a sign by those seats to let passengers know that those seats can fold up.

    Anyhow, this is still a step in the right direction for the L.A. metro.

  2. @Mospaeda

    Think for a moment how that is possible. We do not have GPS chips implanted into us. We do not have big brother agents coming up to us at every bus stop or train station asking for our ID and where we are going like the Soviet Union. We do not have magical laser beams, instant satellite hookups or Hollywood like facial recognition technology linked up to a federal database to document John Doe living in Arcadia is using public transit to go to his place of work in Pasadena. Even if it were at all possible, Metro does not have the financial or labor resources to do so.

    Yes it is true it can be done without smart cards, but the point I was making is that unless there is some sort of data collection happening at the point of destination, it is not possible for Metro to figure out real transit patterns at a level of anonymity. A good example is how the DC Metro used a ticket-in and ticket-out collection system before introduction of smart cards.

  3. I’d sure like to see overhead parcel storage. Looks like there’s plenty of room for it. Some Big Blue Buses have this and it is very useful for getting carry-on stuff out of the way.

  4. @IT Guy in Irvine

    Transit Agencies around the globe have been documenting travel patterns of it users well before the implementation of smart cards into their systems. The data from “TAP out”‘s would be useful but it is not necessary in the gathering of such information.

  5. @Erik G.

    How can there be any data if Metro doesn’t have a tap-out process? There’s no data collection taking place at the point where people get off the bus or train so without that, it’s impossible to gather statistics.

  6. “Plenty of people at Metro take transit to get to work.”

    Metro or AQMD has the statistics to prove or disprove this statement. Please post them some time.

  7. “I just home they make the seats wide enough for Americans, not like those lousy Rotem cars.

    I guess the South Korean manufacturer saved money on the contract by making each seat about 2″ thinner than those in the Bombardier cars.”

    Those new seats are, I beleive, made in the USA and their design and dementions a dictated by the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration based on data collected from amongst other events, the Chatsworth crash.

    And despite the similar names, Metrolink and Metro are two separate agencies, one of which really needs to change its name now.

  8. A very important piece in the vote was that Mark Ridley Thomas-like Antonio Villaraigosa- was shown to be conflicted in his vote as he was not present due to ethics.

  9. Because LA has high taxes and provides no incentives that makes us attractive to bring any rail car manufacturing jobs here. That’s how we drove out the aerospace industry out of LA.

    In contrast, New York provides lots of incentives to have Kawasaki Rail there. Kawasaki can build railcars for the NY Subway in NY and they can have it test run on their tracks immediately. This saves lots of time and money. People working at the Kawasaki facility in Yonkers also use the NY Subway to get to work and get about their daily lives, so the workers there know what is needed to build a good railcar experience. In turn, Kawasaki invests millions of dollars to create more jobs to New York. Last year, Gov. Cuomo announced that Kawasaki was investing $25 million to expand their NY facility, which even created more jobs for New Yorkers.

    Over here, even the people working at Metro drives their own car to get to work. How are they supposed to know what’s wrong with public transit in LA when even they themselves don’t use it to get to work?

    • Plenty of people at Metro take transit to get to work. It’s not a perfect transit system. I think very few large cities in North America can boast having a perfect transit system.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  10. @Bobby McGee

    So then why can’t we bring the rail manufacturers here to Southern California so it will create local jobs and gain much needed experience to make rail cars on our own in the future?

    Buying railcars that are built in New York owned by a Japanese company or importing them from Korea only makes jobs and money go to New York, Japan, and Korea. All the experience of making rail cars then goes to New Yorkers and Japan. We never gain experience and all we end up doing is buying, learning nothing, and not creating jobs.

    In the long term, I think it’s much more better to use tax funds to bring rail manufacturing jobs here, create long term job growth, which we can then use to gain experience to build better rail cars on our own in the future.

    Think of it this way: you may say Asia can build better rail cars, but they didn’t start off like that. Back then, they made poorer quality electronics than the US until they worked hard to build a better quality product. Years of experience made that happen. If we can’t build good quality rail cars, that means we lack experience. The only way to gain that experience is to bring those manufacturing jobs here.

  11. Folks, keep in mind: this is not just about the initial order. This is about over 200 vehicles which could be purchased for all of our light-rail lines. This approval will allow Sharyo to begin building these things, and will give Metro a chance to evaluate Sharyo’s ability to consistently produce a good modern LRV.

  12. Kinkisharyo built Seattle’s LINK light rail cars, and I just hope these aren’t the same as those. Seattle’s cars feel like bloated whales on the tracks — they rock side to side and are massive rather than quick or sleek. I reviewed them after riding, here:

    I think these will be different because Seattle’s are all low-floor, street-level boarding, while LA’s are high, platform-boarding vehicles, but the overall shell of the vehicle could be the same, and that would really seem to drag down the performance of LA’s light rail lines (even if it doesn’t actually slow the speed–it’s all about perception). I haven’t ridden their vehicles in other cities… does anyone have impressions of them from anywhere else?

  13. So why are these gonna replace the older trains on the blue line? And are they gonna have to raise the fare so we can afford these trains?

    • Hi Jeff;

      The original Blue Line cars are expected to have a lifespan of about 30 years — thus the need to replace them. As for future fare increases, none are planned at this time although increases to help pay the costs of running the agency (not just rail car purchases) are certainly a possibility in the future.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  14. Eduardo A.,
    because we don’t need a repeat of the Morrison-Knudson California Cars built for Amtrak for service on the old San Diegan back in the late 1990’s. Fist delivered with CRACKS in the frame. Caltrans would not sing and accept. MK had to send cars back to be fixed. Fixed cars arrived. Caltrans signed off. The multiple door failure problems. Then the second level floor began to sag. Those pieces of made in USA had to be re-built by a “foreign” company (Siemans, I believe) to get it right.

    After that awful experience, it was Alstom who won the contract for the now in use Pacific Surfliner cars, and from day one doors work with great reliability and have taken the beating of the heavy use of the Pac Surf trains.

    Sorry, but the BEST manufactures of rail cars are NOT in the US but in Europe and Asia Japan being the best in all of Asia). The alternative is to award it to a USA company and have our tax dollars wasted with poor quality product. Not a wise course.

    However, many of the foreign manufactures have facilities here in the USA where American workers assemble them, such as Kawasaki in New York state, and I believe Alstom is also in New York state, so they do create jobs in the USA.

    Let us not forget that Metrolink’s new rail care are manufactured by a Korean company and completely manufactured in Korea. The only think left for us to do was to install the trucks/boogies on the cars and done.

    I suppose we should all be US made cars even if the consumer feels that the US auto makers don’t have a car that suits them or is inferior to a foreign model of the same class. American cars would not be as good as they are today if the foreign competition were never allowed to compete here in the land of FREE economy and OPEN market when competition brings benefits to all consumers.

  15. I just home they make the seats wide enough for Americans, not like those lousy Rotem cars.

    I guess the South Korean manufacturer saved money on the contract by making each seat about 2″ thinner than those in the Bombardier cars.

    It makes me think I am riding in an airplane.

  16. Why can’t Metro make the rail cars on their own right here in Southern California instead of buying them from other countries? We need manufacturing jobs here, locally.

  17. Operations and the board serious need to consider re-thinking the seating layout of these light rail vehicles. I am unsure how many Metro decision-makers are regular train-riders, but I firmly believe the majority of transit riders would prefer longitudinal seating (along the sides) rather than the current scheme.

    I can understand prioritizing the number of seats over space for commuter systems, but for light rail vehicles, the relatively short duration of travel doesn’t warrant the need for so many seats. In fact, with the growing number of transit riders and increasing number of cyclists bringing their bikes on the trains, cars with longitudinal seating (or even no seating at all) would be extremely welcome! Hop on any of these vehicles at rush hour and you’ll find it’s difficult to navigate the narrow aisle as it is; it’s only going to be more awkward and difficult as we get more people using transit!

  18. Two questions:

    First, will the rail cars be built in Massachusetts or another state?

    Second, will the rail cars have longitudinal seating or the seating that is depicted in the above renderings?


  19. Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas, Boston, and NJTransit’s two light rail systems in Newark and along the west side of the Hudson all use these cars and they appear to be quite reliable and able to stand up over time.

    Siemens makes a good car, but apparently only if you order their off-the-shelf products; witness the “fun” LACMTA had with the P2000 order.