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New BART trains fail safety inspection, delayed again

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“Fleet of the future” plan for Thanksgiving rollout may take a holiday

A new train car under construction at the factory.
The fleet of the future’s immediate past, under construction.
Courtesy BART

Delay is still the first stop for BART’s new “fleet of the future” train cars, which the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) says failed a recent safety inspection, possibly delaying a planned Thanksgiving kickoff for the new vehicles.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that, according to a CPUC letter sent to BART Monday, an as-yet unidentified computer glitch makes it impossible to operate most train cars during a commute:

The 10-car train failed to recognize all the cars in the line-up, instead recognizing only three of the cars on the train.

At the same time, the train operator was unable to open the doors at platform stops, Elizaveta Malashenko, the director of the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division, said in her letter to BART’s general manager. [...]

The doors didn’t open on seven of the cars in the 10-car train, said Jim Allison, a BART spokesman. But, so far, he said it’s unclear what caused the glitch.

CPUC clearance is the last hurdle BART had to manage before putting the new vehicles into operation. Originally slated for Thanksgiving, it’s now uncertain whether or not the agency will meet that deadline or if the new trains will need even more time to work out the kinks before their debut.

Courtesy BART

Once upon a time, BART hoped to have its first few new cars in service by the end of 2016. That moving goal changed to having at least 60 rolling by the end of 2017, an estimate that the agency later revised down to just 35, with the first ten slated for September of this year, which didn’t happen either.

Now the inaugural ten cars could end up waiting until December, timing depends on if the trains pass an upcoming do-over test and how quickly the red tape unwinds if and when it does.

BART has procured 775 of the $2 million vehicles built by the Canadian firm Bombardier Inc., roughly to the tune of $2.6 billion. The agency hopes to purchase more vehicles in the future, bumping up its count up to 1,018 from the present 664.

New cars feature such amenities as sealed doors to block out the screeching sound of the rails, seats and floors that can be easily wiped down in place of the present upholstery, and digital screens displaying routes and stops.

These vehicles do have fewer seats,as they had to make room for a third door on the side of each car, but the agency says that with more cars in rotation riders will end up with a net gain in seating system wide. But probably not before Thanksgiving, it seems.

Courtesy BART