Thursday, February 22, 2007

State Auditor Report on Breda Green Line cars

Auditor of the Commonwealth, Joe DeNucci has released a report on
The Purchase of Green Line Cars by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 recognized, among other rights, that people with disabilities should have equal access to transit services and facilities that are available to the non-disabled public.
In response to this need to ensure equal access for all patrons, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commissioned a feasibility study to review impediments to the disabled from accessing its transit system. The results of this study, issued by the MBTA in September, 1990, centered on feasibility investigations for full accessibility for persons in wheelchairs on the MBTA’s Green Line. In response to this study, on September 5, 1990, the MBTA Board authorized the General Manager to implement the recommendations of the study, which included utilizing elevators, escalators, ramps, and most importantly the use of low-floor, wheelchair accessible, light-rail vehicles as a means of providing accessibility on the Green Line.

To accomplish the low-floor light-rail vehicle concept, the MBTA Board of Directors voted on February 8, 1995 to award a contract for $215 million to Breda Costruzioni Ferroviarie (AnsaldoBreda) of Pistoia, Italy. Under the terms of the contract, Breda agreed to furnish 100 wheelchair-accessible low-floor No. 8 Green Line cars, provide spare parts, and modify the 115 existing No. 7 Kinkisharyo cars for operational compatibility with these new No. 8 cars.

Our review, which is a follow-up of a prior audit of this contract (Audit No. 2002-0583-3A1) was conducted to determine the overall effectiveness of the MBTA procurement process and oversight over the delivery of these 100 low-floor accessible Green Line cars and the current status of this contract.

The MBTA did not properly oversee the activities of its design and consultant engineers for the purchase of 100 Breda No. 8 Low-Floor Green Line cars initially projected to cost the Authority approximately $215 million dollars in February, 1995. Subsequently, due to design errors, change orders, consultant fees, car derailment problems requiring wheel modification costs, and increased track maintenance expenses, the projected costs to purchase these cars and also ensure against future derailments, will cost the Authority an additional $101 million over the expected 20 year life of these cars.

At the inception of the Breda No. 8 Low-Floor Green Line cars contract, the MBTA could not provide detailed track standards and conditions data necessary for Breda to properly design these low-floor cars to operate on the existing Green Line track infrastructure. This lack of detailed track information played a significant role in the dispute between the MBTA and Breda over whether the derailment issue was caused by car design or track conditions. Moreover, because of design delays at the outset of the contract, the MBTA improperly allowed Breda to combine and accelerate the testing and debugging of the prototype cars prior to authorizing full production of these vehicles by the contractor. These ill-advised decisions by the MBTA directly contributed to the faulty accepted design of these vehicles and their propensity to derail, and ultimately delayed providing their disabled patrons access to these vehicles.

CLICK HERE for the entire report


JCS said...

Several years ago after a rash of derailments on the Green line, the T hired a consultant to determine the cause of the problem. The conclusion, and I quote, was that there was a "wheel and track interface problem."

I wonder how much that pearl of wisdom cost?

Anonymous said...

Probably the usual cost of a "study", $125,000.00

Might seem expensive, but it bought the MBTA two things: time, and public amnesia.

The T was being (miraculous) widely criticized and they needed to show that they were actually doing something. So while they, and BREDA knew that the issue was primarily the MBTA, the public was told something quite different. An image was proffered of T managers and BREDA engineers burning the midnight oil, taxing all their analytical prowess, trying to solve the big mystery. This, when they all knew that the problem was MBTA.

What will happen to this Auditor's report? It will be filed somewhere and forgotten because, as Mac Daniel tells us, the T has since changed its ways.

Don't worry. And enjoy the new Orange Line cars (whenever they might come) and the fare collection system, too, a product of the T's change of ways.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how public opinion tends to be critical of all those contractors - Siemens, S&B, Breda - while ignoring the simple fact that the only common element in all those fiascos is the agency that contracted them.

I'm sure if all those other projects are audited, we'll find that the T managed to screw up products that otherwise would work very well.

Charlie D. said...

I'm surprised these companies don't refuse to do business with the T, if not simply for liability reasons and bad publicity in the past when it was the T that was at fault. When the T was then left with no one to provide the equipment they need, they truly would be forced to change their ways.

Anonymous said...

although the people on this board are better than others you seem ignorant to the fact that the problmes with the new fare equipment and siemens cars are they have never tested well or stayed is service long enough. how is that the T's fault. the breda cars are shared but breda does not mold their cars and hand lays them this causes alot of the reliability problems. although the T should have never entered in to the contract in the first place if that was the problem. it should also be mentioned that all projects are pushed by the federal government

Charlie said...

Mac Daniel reported on the audit in the Friday Globe

Audit details $101m trolley debacle

I love this part
For example, the audit says that when track data was not available, T officials advised Breda officials to use track geometry in San Francisco, a much newer system, than the actual track geometry of the Green Line.

John Mc said...

You want the fun part - give lead time for car order & delivery, it's about time for the T to start the process to replace the Breda cars... :-)

Anonymous said...

Long, scathing after-the-fact reports by politically-appointed bureaucrats are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

This report is full of things the T should have done. Why didn't DeNucci's office make the T do these things at the time, instead of just complaining about them years later, once it's too late?

Anonymous said...

Back in 1990, I visited San Francisco and they had the same Boeing cars that we had in Boston. The difference was that while in the subway, the stairs were hydraulically raised to be even with the floor of the train. The trains ran in pits like the red,orange, and blue lines. Once out on the street, the stairs were lowered for access,but there was a handicapped platform at each stop where the stairs would remain in the flat/floor position when needed. I'm sure the T could have paid a nominal sum for this feature on these trains, as well as on the Kinki cars, and with a $1 million or so of platform work, have been completely handicapped accessible 15 years ago.

Alex said...

@Charlie: God that's rich. Use the SF track data. Breda couldn't even get that right. The Breda LRVs weigh about 10,000lbs more than the Boeings that they replaced. This extra weight has meant lots of extra track replacements. Switch replacements have been required as well, since the obese Breda cars tended to create loud banging noises (think along the lines of a crash) at some junctions.

@Anon: Out here, in the city by the bay, we're critical of the contractors and of the government. However, at some point, you have to look at the contractors and realize that they just don't know what they were/are doing. The primary problem with the Breda cars is their lack of build quality. However, the ATCS (which was a stupid idea in the first place) was flat out botched by Alcatel, and SF had to sue to get it finished. That said, it has never worked properly.

@Anon-2: Sure, the old Boeings had movable steps. Because of the shape of the Boeing cars, only the center doors were usable at high floor stops. Indeed, the design of the steps required the ever so problematic "plug" doors in the SF Boeing cars. To this day the replacement Bredas have constant problems with their doors. Be very, very thankful that you guys didn't press the Boeing cars into service at high and low floor stops.