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BART's new cars delayed until 2017 [Updated]

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Fleet of the future deferred until future

[Update: Or maybe not. BART spokeperson Alicia Trost now tells Curbed SF that, in fact, there is no delay at all.

"We had a delay early on due to a variety of issues that have been addressed. But the APSE [auxiliary power] issue has not caused further delay. We still anticipate riders will be able to ride a new train by December this year- which is contingent on testing and no major engineering issues."

Previously, the East Bay Times and San Francisco Business Times quoted project manager John Garnham and BART spokesperson Taylor Huckabee about the alleged delay, which their colleague now says is not a delay at all. We're still waiting for comment from Garnham and Huckabee ourselves. As soon as we get to the bottom of this, we'll let you know.]

If you’re looking forward to a ride on BART’s fleet of the future, it'll be a while.

Although the first of the 775 cars that the agency ordered (at a price of $2.5 billion) was supposed to report for duty at the end of this year, BART’s revised schedule calls for the rollout to roll out in May of 2017 instead.

The culprit, according to the East Bay Times, is bum power supply equipment. Apparently, the contraptions presently installed in the new cars are in the habit of switching off whenever things get a bit too hot, or just when there’s too much stuff plugged in inside.

Since electricity is generally considered pretty important for an electric vehicle, this is a decidedly decisive flaw. The train itself doesn’t rely on the auxiliary power system, but things like the doors and interior lights do, making it more or less critical if you expect any passengers to be willing and able to get on.

BART plans to replace its entire stock of 669 aging train cars with the new design, with the initial 775 order just a precursor to a target of over 1,000, which the agency says it needs to relieve crowding and improve service. The most recent audit showed gave BART a system wide on-time rating of 85 percent, short of the stated goal of 92.

Lately, BART has become surprisingly frank about the problems it's juggling, as ridership soars at perhaps the worst possible time for a transit system relying on decades old technology that’s in the habit of acting its age. The agency frequently cites funding limits and the practical boundaries of what you can ask from the system.

But in this case, the tech is brand new and most of the money was already raised and spent. And yet, here‘s a problem.

That’s not necessarily BART’s fault, of course. Back in March, SF Weekly observed that manufacturer Bombardier lost a London contract for tardiness, was soliciting the Canadian government for a bailout, and was late delivering BART’s first prototype new car.

And so, once again, we’re all waiting on a late train.