- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2001

Metro riders on crowded subway trains will have to wait until late summer or early fall for dozens of new rail cars to come into service to relieve overcrowding.
"We are way behind. It could be the middle of September and thats when the ridership comes back," said Jim Hughes, the transit agencys planning director.
Metro officials are waiting on the delivery of 192 new rail cars from a Spanish manufacturer while they work to correct technical and mechanical problems with new cars they already have received.
Mr. Hughes said he expects to have 80 of the 192 Series 5000 subway cars in service along the Green, Orange, Blue and Yellow lines by the end of July, with 20 of those cars going to the Branch Avenue extension of the Green Line.
Metro officials are expecting to get 80 cars, built by CAF of Madrid, in service by July 30, as their contract specifies. But Mr. Hughes said hes not sure if those cars will get on the tracks on time.
"We have questioned their commitment to get 80 (cars delivered on time)," Mr. Hughes said. "We may not have 80 in July. We might just have 60 — that is possible."
CAF could be hit with financial penalties if it does not deliver the cars as scheduled, he said.
Once the rail cars are "accepted and approved for service" they will be "trickled" out, Mr Hughes said, noting that the key concerns are when the cars will arrive and how long it will take to get them ready for service.
Getting the cars in service could be a smoother process now, he said, because Metro is "fixing" problems with the first batch of cars that it got last fall. Those cars were to have been put in service in time for the Jan. 13 opening of the five-station Green Line extension.
Metro was to have had 26 cars in service along the Green Line by the end of December, but transit officials have run into a string of problems with the cars. And with Green Line ridership swelling to the 2005 estimates of more than 32,000 passengers a day, Metro officials have been struggling with the increased capacity.
They have had very few options to handle the unexpected influx of riders except to use cars that are in maintenance or otherwise out of service.
Four of the 80 new cars are scheduled to be on the Green Line this month, Mr. Hughes said, which would bring the total number on the extension to 90 — a far cry from the original 68 the transit agency first had in service.
"No one anticipated the ridership we were going to have," Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said, adding that the transit agency will not put out a rail car that is not deemed to be "safe and reliable."
To lighten the Green Lines load, Mr. Hughes plans to use a six-car "tripper" — a subway car used during peak times to handle the rush. According to Metro documents, that should reduce the number of passengers per car from 136 to about 126.
The Green Line extension isnt the only part of Metros 25-year-old system having problems with cramped surroundings and average daily ridership of over 600,000 people a day.
Mr. Hughes said new cars will be put in service throughout the summer along the Orange, Yellow, Blue and Green lines. He said he intends to have only six-car trains running throughout the system. The Red Line will see some relief next year when more cars are put into service, he said. After the summer or fall delivery, he expects to put 10 cars a month on line, until the order for the 192 cars is filled.
But Mr. Hughes said he probably will have to revamp his deployment schedule after he receives a revised delivery schedule from CAF, and that could be at least a couple of weeks.
Putting the first set of new rail cars on the tracks has been delayed by problems caused by glitches in new technologies used to run the cars and some quality control concerns when they were delivered. The five computers that run the new cars have been a major concern, and Metro has had problems with car stabilizers that fall off, wooden floors that crack and different style of wheel trucks that require a special lathe to true the wheels.
Charles Stanford, Metros chief engineer, said the computer problems have caused the majority of the delays because the components do not always work together.
Mr. Stanford said that during one test a train was powered up to leave to leave the Takoma station, but it lurched back about 15 feet and all of its doors flew open. He said that was mainly a computer problem they have been trying to correct.
"It stopped after the operators hit the (emergency stop button). The failsafe was still there," Mr. Stanford said. "We found three problems in the computers and one pair of wires crossed."
Metro lost two days of testing after a track walker found a stabilizer in the track bed of the Red Line after a new train was tested. The stabilizer looks like an automobiles shock absorber and is located between the wheels. It is designed to keep the train from swaying too far to either side.
Metro workers said the stabilizer fell off because the bushings that held it to the underside of the car were too weak and snapped. Mr. Stanford said the bushing was a problem and was an "inappropriate use" for a rail car and new bushing had to be installed.
The new cars plywood floors lack older cars metal cladding, which makes them stronger and protects them from weather and fire.
Mr. Stanford said the cladding is not necessary since the underside of the car is built with an aluminum unibody that protects the floor.
Metro workers said the floors already have begun to deteriorate. Mr. Stanford said "surface cracks" have been discovered in the plywood.
He said CAF has assured him that the cracks do not pose a structural problem and has given Metro a lifetime warranty for the floors. He said the plywood is made in Europe and is denser than the Douglas fir flooring of older cars.
"We have some concerns, but the manufacturer has furnished us an unconditional warranty," Mr. Stanford said.


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