Metrolink to buy newest, cleanest locomotives

Mass transit is about to get greener here in Southern California. Here’s the news release from Metrolink:

Metrolink to buy newest, cleanest locomotives

Cleaner engines will provide more horsepower, greater operational efficiency

LOS ANGELES – The Metrolink Board of Directors authorized the agency to enter into a contract to secure Tier 4 locomotives at its Dec. 14, 2012, meeting.

The revolutionary locomotives are expected to reduce emissions by 86 percent.

“This is a significant milestone in Metrolink’s efforts to operate the most efficient and environmentally friendly commuter rail system in the nation,” said Board Chair Richard Katz. “It demonstrates our commitment to our neighbors and to doing our part to clean up the air in Southern California.”

At this point, Metrolink is on pace to become the first in the country to achieve Tier 4 status in revenue service.

The procurement of the locomotives and the contract with Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) is contingent upon the securing of project funds, while Friday’s Board decision is the latest step of a lengthy process. The first three demonstration locomotives are scheduled to be complete in the fall of 2015.

The locomotive upgrades will have system wide benefits and help reduce emissions in the surrounding communities. In addition, these locomotives will have greater horsepower that can increase capacity by adding more train cars to a set.

The phased-approach contract includes a base order of 10 locomotives, plus an option to purchase up to 10 additional locomotives. Metrolink has allocated $129.4 million for the purchase of the locomotives.

The overall program will allow Metrolink to eventually secure 20 new Tier 4 locomotives. The Board’s decision also committed Metrolink to the testing of alternative fuel sources in future operations. Metrolink will make the first locomotives replaced by the new Tier 4s available to the South Coast Air Quality Management District for the purposes of experimentation with various alternative fuel technologies expected to be commercially available in the next decade.

These technologies include, but are not limited to, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and battery technology. Metrolink will continue to work collaboratively with its funding partners in this pursuit.

For additional details on Metrolink, please visit


Metrolink is Southern California’s regional commuter rail service in its 20th year of operation. The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA), a joint powers authority made up of an 11-member board representing the transportation commissions of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, governs the service. Metrolink operates over seven routes through a six-county, 512 route-mile network. Metrolink is the third largest commuter rail agency in the United States based on directional route miles and the seventh largest based on annual ridership.

18 replies

  1. Or you could electrify the whole thing and become as transit-progressive as the Northeast Corridor has been since, uhm, the 1930s…

    Good little steps though. Hopefully Californians will see electrification in the not too distant future…

  2. Good first step. It’d be nice to see metro link become as progressive as say the Northeast Corridor was in the 1930s with route electrification. Hopefully Californians will see electrification and more efficient transit in the not too distant future…

  3. Interesting that they are buying from EMD who, while a longtime builder of locos, have not been in the passenger biz for many years.

  4. Years ago when I lived in the Northeast; the Northeast Corridor was great. The only problem with having Metrolink all electric is it would be a problem during rolling black outs; unless of course they could obtain exemptions.

  5. Expo Line Fan, EMD is the manufacturer of the loco’s. They used to be a part of GM, until 2005. They are now owned by Caterpillar.

  6. By all means Andrew, don’t let the facts get in the way of you putting down Los Angeles.

    Electrified commuter rail systems in Northeast
    VRE : Diesel
    MARC : Diesel
    SEPTA : Electric
    NJ Transit : Some electric
    LIRR : Some electric
    MetroNorth : Some electric
    MBTA : Some electric

  7. Its nice what Metrolink is purchasing but, I have to agree that the electrification of the lines would be an even better investment. Also, when is Metrolink going to invest into getting the Transit Access Pass (TAP) cards?

    • Hi Warren and others;

      I think the issue with electrification is the sheer cost of it — hundreds of miles of new infrastructure on the rail lines throughout So Cal (with not all the track owned by Metrolink, I believe) as well as the new trains to run on it. As expensive as fuel is, it’s likely not that expensive at least in the short term. I’m also guessing that electrification probably makes sense for railroads that run a lot more trains. Metrolink’s ridership is doing fine, but some of the eastern railroads still run many more trains.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. Actually, MBTA has no electric commuter rail operations. They use diesel locomotives under the Amtrak wires when they run on the Northeast Corridor (Also known as the Attleboro/Providence line, though recently it was extended to Wickford Junction, RI via Providence Airport (hint hint, Metrolink!)

    And as for dual-mode locomotives, they do exist, even in North America, but are very expensive and are still having some “teething” issues with their owners at NJTransit and Montreal’s AMT:

  9. Has Metro or Metrolink studied the costs to double-track and electrify Metrolink trains? Have they studied the feasibility and costs of using the 10 freeway as a transportation corridor and moving the San Bernardino line so that it uses the freeway right of way for most of the trip? Double-tracking would allow more trains to run. Then perhaps electrification would work. Right now, commuters are constrained by the very limited Metrolink schedules, which are themselves constrained by single track travel times.

  10. “Electrified commuter rail systems in Northeast
    VRE : Diesel
    MARC : Diesel
    SEPTA : Electric
    NJ Transit : Some electric
    LIRR : Some electric
    MetroNorth : Some electric
    MBTA : Some electric”

    While most northeastern railroads have some diesel routes, the busiest, best served, and most important routes are electric, and, more importantly, use electric multiple units, instead of a large, plodding locomotive pulling or pushing unpowered cars. Metro-North’s New Haven Line is the country’s busiest, and is overwhelmingly served by electric multiple units. Same goes for the LIRR, NJT (to an extent), and SEPTA. MBTA is probably an outlier; they should be running electrics on the line to Providence. MARC uses electric locomotives on it’s busy Penn Line. VRE’s low ridership (equal to about an hour of Metro-North’s rush hour ridership) and terrible schedule (sparse midday and reverse commuter service) means it shouldn’t even be included with these more complete systems.

    Remember that diesel locomotives cannot run into New York’s Penn Station or Grand Central, so all must be dual mode or else terminate in Hoboken or Long Island City, or remain on the distant branch lines.

    Electrification and use of multiple units allows LIRR, SEPTA, and Metro-North to offer fast and frequent service, at almost all hours of the day. Hopefully Caltrain adopts their model for service.