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BART Train Plant Moving to Pittsburg, CA – Streetsblog San Francisco

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It’s cruel environmental irony, but the first thing a new BART “fleet of the future” train car does after rolling out of the factory is burn lots of fuel oil getting trucked across the country. That’s because up until now, units were built at train-builder Bombardier’s plant in Plattsburgh, NY. And because of BART’s non-standard-gauge wheels, it’s impossible to roll them to the Bay Area on a freight train. Bombardier could hoist the BART trains onto flat-bed train cars, but apparently it’s cheaper just to use trucks.

All of that will change in September, when Bombardier starts constructing trains at a plant in Pittsburg, CA, owned by Breda Transportation and currently used by Hitachi Rail Italy to build trains for Honolulu’s new light-metro system. Bombardier will take over as soon as Hawaii’s new trains are finished.

“We’re building 775 new rail cars for BART. As of now, 90 have been built in New York and shipped,” said Elliot Sander, President of Bombardier Transportation, at a press event held at the Breda plant this morning. “What was 3,000 miles will be 50 miles… with a great reduction in emissions from the trucks.”

Tracks embedded in the factory floor. However, even these are useless for making BART trains, thanks to BART's non-standard gauge wheels and track
Tracks embedded in the factory floor. However, even these are useless for making BART trains, thanks to BART’s non-standard gauge wheels and track

The trains, according to a BART spokesperson, will be trucked from this new location to the Hayward BART yard, where they will be tested and eventually brought into service.

As seen in the above photos, Bombardier used one of the new trains, which was on its way from New York to Hayward, as a backdrop for the press function.

Sander explained that the move to the new plant will grow Bombardier’s presence in California. The company already maintains the AirTrain people mover at San Francisco International Airport, and does work on commuter rail services in Southern California.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to note that the trains that are currently built at the facility for Honolulu’s system are driverless, so when that city’s rail system opens next year, train service will be far more frequent than BART, without additional labor costs. District 2 BART director Mark Foley, who also spoke at this morning’s press event, told Streetsblog automated trains are something BART should look at too. “We have to be nimble and flexible, not short sighted of this need.”

A driverless train gift wrapped and read to ship to Hawaii. When these trains are finished, Bombardier will move in to make the rest of BART's 'fleet of the future'
A driverless train gift wrapped and ready to ship to Hawaii. When the last of these trains are finished, Bombardier will move in to make the rest of BART’s ‘fleet of the future’

Assemblymember Tim Grayson, who also spoke at the event, praised the move’s potential for reducing delays in train delivery and reducing greenhouse gas emissions overall. And by providing jobs in Pittsburg, “people will have places they can live, work and play” all in the same location, he added.

“This is just down the street from the BART line,” said Foley. “This reduces our carbon footprint and lets us lead by example.”

But as the executives, lawmakers and administrators extolled the environmental value of the move and of transit overall, Streetsblog couldn’t help but notice some irony, as illustrated in this photo (many more cars were parked outside):

Apparently everyone, except Streetsblog, drove to the new train factory to give speeches about the importance of transit to reducing greenhouse gases
Apparently everyone, except Streetsblog, drove to the new train factory to give speeches about the importance of transit to reducing greenhouse gases. More cars, including quite a few gas guzzlers, were parked outside

The new factory is only two miles from the newly opened BART station at Pittsburg Center. Streetsblog pointed out that there’s is basically no bike infrastructure between Pittsburg Center and the factory. What bike lanes exist are no more than a few gutter-pan stripes that start and stop abruptly. And the street that goes to the plant, Loveridge Road, doesn’t even have sidewalks.

Loveridge road, near the factory entrance, doesn't have much love for bicycle, scooters, or pedestrians
Loveridge Road, near the factory entrance, has just a little love for bicycles and perhaps scooters, but none at all for pedestrians

The bus trip from the BART station is so circuitous it takes  around 40 minutes, not counting wait time.

“We’ll have to take a look at that,” said Sander. Grace Crunican, BART’s general manager who will retire next month, added that “We’ll be happy to work on that.”

Of course, Streetsblog first called out the lack of pedestrian or bike facilities around BART’s Antioch extension last year when it opened. So far, no improvements are evident.



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