What we know about BART's 'Fleet of the Future' maintenance issues

After about six months of being in service, 2 Investigates obtained maintenance data on BART’s 20 new 'Fleet of the Future' train cars.  Public records show more than 640 work orders detailing a wide variety of issues including software, door, and brake problems. But the work orders and maintenance logs don't tell the whole story.

“We feel the cars are safe. It’s more of an issue with reliability at this point,” BART spokesman Jim Allison told KTVU. “Every little thing that goes wrong with these cars gets documented and the car gets put in the shop.”

 

A large number of work orders isn’t necessary a cause for concern, 2 Investigates learned. It may also be a good thing for the public. In a memo from BART officials to board members, BART said the documentation is “providing visibility and enabling the project team to hold Bombardier [the manufacturer] accountable to fix these issues as quickly as possible.”


Some of the issues detailed in the BART memo include:

  • More than 95 computer issues
  • More than 90 door problems
  • 47 issues with “friction brakes”
  • In all, 202 reports resulted from failures or operational issues

For more perspective, 2 Investigates spoke with Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) representative Brad Ross. TTC is a Canadian transit agency that, like BART, also hired Bombardier to make its new trains and street cars. 2 Investigates first uncovered a pattern of chronic delivery delays from Bombardier affecting TTC and BART for years. When asked if 640 work orders in six months seemed significant, Ross said not necessarily.

 

“It’s not really until the cars are in service, you start carrying passengers, daily things like that that things start to occur that you wouldn’t normally see in the testing phase,” Ross said. “How Bombardier, BART or the TTC addresses these problems, that they get addressed so they don’t occur over and over again, that’s the critical question to ask.”

 

“We understand people are frustrated, they want the new cars. But, we ask for their patience because we’re in this for the long term,” said Allison.

 

Although 20 new BART cars are in service, Allison said 31 more are currently on BART property. Eleven cars have been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, but BART has not accepted them.

 

“We have a higher standard,” said Allison. “We are taking our time to make sure we do our due diligence.”

 

Allison said BART hopes to have a new 10-car train on each line by the end of the year.

 

According to 2 Investigates’ records, Bombardier was supposed to have delivered 230 new cars by the end of 2018.

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