Muni sources parts to keep light rail trains running


Outdated parts for Breda light-rail vehicles are hard to come by, but Muni has found an effective — albeit expensive — solution.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has engaged a third-party firm to obtain and fabricate parts for the aging trains, which has helped improved reliability and increased the availability of light-rail vehicles for daily service.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a contract amendment with Alstom Transportation Inc. and the SFMTA to exercise two options to extend the current contract through Aug. 31, 2018 for additional amount $25.5 million. The total contract amount is $55.2 million.

The original $39 million contract with Alstom had started out as pilot when the board approved the contract back in 2013 for two years. The transit agency later extended the contract to to Aug. 31, 2016.

John Haley, director of transit for the SFMTA, said at the board’s Budget and Finance Committee last Wednesday that the transit agency saw a significant improvement in the mean time between failures of the light-rail vehicles, and a lower out-of-stock rate for train parts whiling using Alstom:

“The focus today is how we’ve been able to address a long-standing problem for the agency, which is making sure we have the right parts at the right time so we can support doing both our preventive maintenance on scheduled basis as well as our repairs in a timely fashion.”

Muni light-rail vehicles now travel more miles without breaking down. The mean distance between failures has increased from an average of 2,964 miles to 5,150 and the average train availability increased from an average of 110 to 120 after implementing the inventory management system.

Haley said the transit agency can now send out more two-car trains during peak times on the L-Taraval and M-Oceanview.

One of the key and important parts of the contract is for Alstom to find experts to reproduce parts from manufacturers who are no longer in business, said the transit agency. The process is called reverse engineering.

This has to led to a higher availability of parts in the transit agency’s inventory, which had not been always the case, said Haley.

During the last six years, the stock-out rate for parts was at high of 11.5 percent in 2012, but that has since decreased 2.5 percent this year.

The transit agency had also seen an increase of spending in parts from $21 million in 2011 to $42 million in 2015, according to SFMTA documents.

Haley said this was good thing for the transit agency because it meant inspections and preventative maintenance on vehicles were done on time and that parts were more readily available for maintenance staff:

“This is the level of maintenance that we need to be doing. This is what will keep the system safe and the system reliable.”

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay and covers transportation and City Hall. He has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Jerold is a San Francisco native and frequently takes public transit everywhere he goes. Follow Jerold on Twitter @jerold_chinn. Email tips to

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