WASHINGTON –Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s chief operating officer said at a board committee meeting Thursday that Metro’s 7000 series railcars are not meeting Metro’s goals for railcar reliability.
Joe Leader, chief operating officer for Metro, described the Metro’s fleet critically.
“I would refer to it as poor and inconsistent,” said Leader regarding Metro fleet performance over time.
Regarding the 7000 series railcars, Leader said the distance traveled between offloads as of December was improving but not consistently meeting Metro’s goal 100,000-mile goal of distance traveled between failures that cause delays of four minutes or more. The new cars reached that goal five months in 2016. The average, which Metro didn’t specify, was better than in 2015, an average of 36,000 miles between failures causing delays of four minutes or more.
Leader said 60 percent of customer delays of four minutes or more result from railcar failures.
The newest cars are 55 percent of the way to reaching Metro’s goal of distance traveled between failures, or problems that don’t result in four minutes or more of delays and may not result in an offload.
“Kawasaki is meeting the contract goals most of the time,” Leader said.
Leader said Metro’s target was 20,000 miles between failures, but the 7000 series cars on average traveled around 11,000 miles between failures as of December.
Board member Tom Bulger, who represents the District, said he was not happy with the information Leader shared about the 7000 series performance.
“I’m somewhat disappointed,” Bulger said. “These are supposed to be the cat’s meow, and I think they should be performing better. It’s not acceptable.”
Metro board member Michael Goldman, who represents Montgomery County, said he found the information about 7000 series performance to be problematic.
“They’re not meeting the goals for breakdown yet, and they’ve never met the goals for time between failures,” Goldman said. “While the targets will make them a very reliable railcar… we’re not there yet.”
If the newest additions to Metro’s fleet do not meet goals in the next year, Goldman said, Metro should issue punishments to Kawasaki for not doing what Metro hired it to do. He said he wasn’t sure whether Metro’s goals for railcar reliability were detailed in the contract.
If the contract does include detailed performance goals, and if steps for punishment for failure to meet contract requirements are not in the contract, Goldman said, Metro administration may have to communicate its concern using other means, such as a lawsuit.
“We’re not clear whether penalty provisions are set and automatic or whether the targets are just goals and WMATA would have to sue or go through some other procedure to try to enforce some penalties for noncompliance with contracts,” Goldman said.
“It’s not acceptable,” Bulger said. “We’re depending on these 7000 series cars to get us out of this mess we’re in.”
Part of Back2Good, an initiative to reduce rider delays related to railcar failure, is putting additional 7000 series trains online, Leader said.
Bulger said he hopes Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld can fulfill his promise to reduce delays by 25 percent in 2017 and further decrease delays in 2018. Bulger said he believes without reliable new railcars, the goals of Back2Good may not be reached.
Leader said Metro aims to balance railcar maintenance between preventive and corrective measures. Seventy percent of maintenance is corrective, and 30 percent is preventive.
Leader said the 7000 series railcars will replace Metro’s oldest cars, the 1000 series, and its smallest and least-reliable cars, the 4000 series. He said the 7000 series cars are 25 percent more reliable than the 1000 series and that they are four times more reliable than the 4000 series.
“Hopefully, over time … they can get the bugs out of the 7000 series (trains), get them to perform better,” Bulger said. “We’ll all be better off.”
In addition to increasing the number of 7000 series railcars in Metro’s fleet, Back2Good includes more evenly distributing cars needing repairs to the different rail yards – so one yard isn’t overwhelmed with railcars to fix — and providing additional training to Metro’s newest mechanics.
Leader said Metro is scheduled to finish inspecting and repairing its oldest railcars regarding recurring issues such as doors not opening or problems with the breaks the middle of this year.
When Metro first added 7000 series cars to Metro’s fleet, Kawasaki was not delivering them at as high a rate as Metro expected, but the frequency of new railcar delivery increased and is less of a concern to board members.