MARTA to replace rail car fleet by 2026; seeks cars that can travel streets, freight lines

By David Pendered

MARTA intends to replace all of its train cars by 2026 and has asked vendors to provide information on both new cars and the best way to extend the life of the existing fleet until the new vehicles arrive, according to bid solicitations that are due Aug. 30.

marta trains

MARTA intends to replace its fleet of train cars by 2026 and is seeking advice from the industry on current practices. Credit: blogs.cresa.com

MARTA envisions the new cars serving as streetcars and able to travel freight rails – the later of which could be required for an expansion of rail service in Clayton County.

Regarding usage as streetcars, MARTA wants information on vehicles that can be powered by both a third rail that’s mounted in the track, as the cars now receive electricity to run their motors, and from an overhead pantograph – the charged wire that’s been laced over some downtown streets to power the Atlanta Streetcar.

To reduce the cost of new vehicles, MARTA is not enforcing the federal Buy America Requirements regarding steel, iron, and manufactured parts. MARTA can do that because it doesn’t intend to use federal funding to purchase the cars, according to the solicitation. That said, the solicitation observes:

  • “MARTA is intending, however, to require certain aspects of Buy America that meet the spirit of the Buy America requirements, but without creating extra cost or risk to MARTA. MARTA is therefore interested in hearing carbuilder suggestions/ideas for what elements of the Buy America requirements can be met, how the carbuilder would meet those elements, and what costs or risks would be minimized.

MARTA has issued requests for information from vendors. One RFI is for new train cars. One RFI is for fleet maintenance. MARTA intends to use the information to write requests for proposals that are to be released in December. Bid solicitations show the RFP for new rail cars is due to MARTA around April 2017 and a contract is to be awarded around November 2017. For the car extension program, MARTA expects to award a contract in 2017.

marta, trains near end of life

MARTA’s fleet of rail vehicles is to reach the end of its life expectancy in 2021. The yellow and green bars refer to the two generations of MARTA’s fleet. Credit: MARTA

MARTA’s trains are old. They’re to reach their lifespan in 2021. Each vehicle received a mid-life overhaul at some point between 2005 and 2008, a solicitation shows.

MARTA has two generations of train cars. The first generation, of 96 vehicles, is 36 years old. The second group, of 120 cars, is 31 years old.

MARTA intends to wring at least 30 years of life expectancy from its new cars, according to the solicitation. MARTA asks the carbuilding community to help it avoid buying cars that are going to become obsolete in short order:

  • “MARTA would like to hear from carbuilders on how MARTA can protect itself from obsolescence, including technical specification and/or procurement requirements to (a) provide the newest of technology, early in its product life, but not so new as to be problem-prone, to reduce MARTA’s exposure to premature obsolescence issues (b) recognizing that obsolescence is unavoidable, what programs the carbuilder can offer to protect MARTA from the effects of obsolescence, including all of the subsystems on the car, that MARTA recognizes may not necessarily be provided by suppliers that are a direct business affiliates of the carbuilder.”

 

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

11 replies
  1. Paul Griffin says:

    Although not a requirement, I wish MARTA would adhere to the Buy American protocol. While I totally understand this would increase costs, this would also help our friends, neighbors and associated business’. Sometimes, doing the right thing isn’t without costs, financially or otherwise.Report

    Reply
  2. Matt says:

    This article is absolutely WRONG! MARTA is most definitely NOT envisioning that these cars will travel the streets or freight rails. Not only is an entirely different vehicle profile required for each, but the Federal Railroad Administration will absolutely not allow transit vehicles to operate on freight tracks. Please, anyone who reads this, do not take this as fact!Report

    Reply
  3. Mason Hicks says:

    If you will forgive me, I find myself a little bit frustrated by
    MARTA’s incessant clinging to the reference to “Cars” as the base unit of rolling stock when they describe their vision for the vehicles
    which will eventually replace those that are currently in service. This is not merely a semantics argument, but what I fear to be a
    confinement of thought and logic which is endemic of American transit agencies
    in general, that reflects an unwillingness to think outside of the relatively small
    box within which they have operated in since they were first created. Outside the US, transit
    agencies and passenger rail carriers have moved away from referring to cars
    (wagons, carriages, etc.) as their base unit of rolling stock and have replaced
    the concept with “trainsets”. This, to me represents a more holistic
    way of looking at what will arrive at the platforms and how it will function.
    This year, as a departure from this norm, MTA, (the New York Subway) is testing
    new trainsets which like their more modern counterparts in Europe, are
    articulated, featuring unified interior spaces, where passengers can freely
    move from one fixed segment (a car) to another without passing through doors or
    leaving the train enclosure, such as is demonstrated in the Atlanta Streetcar trainsets.
    I have lived in Paris over the last seven-years and I have witnessed
    them upgrade the Paris Métro, as well as take on similar developments in
    intercity trains with the French National Railway, SNCF. With the Métro, I have
    witnessed several lines where historical train consists underwent phased
    replacement with new, articulated trainsets which both dramatically added capacity and enhanced the level of comfort for the users of these lines. This was most simply due to the
    fact that the entire length of the train could now be used to carry passengers. Whereas, with
    conventional train consists, such as those in the current MARTA train make-ups, anywhere from five-to-twelve feet at each car linkage along the train’s length is
    completely unusable for carrying passengers. With SNCF, they are systematically
    phasing-out all traditional train consist (locomotives pulling rail cars) and
    replacing them all with trainsets.
    I understand that adapting the redevelopment language to
    allow for an evolution of the rolling-stock philosophy would perhaps stipulate
    a cultural adaptation with respect to how railwaymen approach the marshaling of
    their rolling stock; and I understand that is only one aspect of the scope of this endeavor, but I would hope
    that MARTA will look beyond the walls of the Amour Yard Depot, and that they will take a good look at how transit agencies around the world
    approach similar subjects; and I would hope that MARTA officials would be less averse to taking a second look at how they will arrive at the 2026 horizon offering a more efficient and effective program to the overall betterment of the Metro Atlanta travel experience.Report

    Reply
    • Kyle says:

      I agree that the articulated train sets are superior to the traditional train sets in function, however, I believe cost and need will rule these as impractical for Atlanta. Atlanta’s trains are not running over capacity, where the additional space would be needed. Additionally, the articulated separators are much more expensive that traditional bulkheads. The articulated portion is a flexible wall which is constantly moving as the train moves. These parts wear out and need to be replaced on a regular basis. They are also more prone to failure that traditional fixed bulkhead has a much better service life and a much better cost. I don’t see this being justified in Atlanta, and even New York has not adopted this (yet) for their new fleet.Report

      Reply
  4. mnst says:

    Mason Hicks  There are some factual problems in this article (there are 3 generations of MARTA rail cars, not 2, for starters). But MARTA is in fact asking vendors for information about cars with open gangways, either married pairs or triplets.Report

    Reply
  5. Martin says:

    David,
    As others have comment, your article is incorrect. Look at the MARTA Industry Day PP presentation:
     http://www.itsmarta.com/uploadedFiles/About_MARTA/Vendor_Opportunities/P38186%20Industry%20Day%20Presentation.pdf

    There’s nothing in this presentation that talks about MARTA heavy-rail vehicles doubling as streetcars.

    MartinReport

    Reply
  6. mnst says:

    David, you really need to correct this article. Multiple sites are now repeating the incorrect conclusions you drew in this article and you’re responsible for spreading some unfortunate misinformation.Report

    Reply

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