Good: Upgrading Your City’s Light Rail Cars – Bad: Forgetting To Measure The Tracks

Seattle is upgrading their city’s light rail system, which is awesome – but it seems that the guy with the tape measure took the day off.

By nowproducerdave on July 25, 2018
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Seattle just upgraded some of their light rail cars. They actually purchased 10 new state-of-the-art train cars to help with growing passengers. I’m talking all new efficient lighting and motors, clean design, real top-end cars to the tune of $52 million. They’re wider, they’re longer, and can hold a bunch more passengers. That means more money earned from ticket sales per run – awesome!

They forgot to check a couple things before buying the new cars though, like the size of the existing tracks, and integrity of the overall system. Oops. Let’s get one thing out of the way first, the track rails. Those are identical, the new cars definitely fit on the existing rails, that’s not a problem. The problem is that with longer trains, curves in the track might be an issue. Longer trains need a bigger radius to make a turn.

The bigger size problem is actually with the existing “things” in place for the current trains. Are the bridges strong enough to support the weight? The trains are stored in garages and maintenance barns – are those big enough to accommodate the longer, wider, taller size? When trains pull up to platforms, is there enough space between the track and platform for the train to pull up without touching the side? All these concerns apparently haven’t yet been addressed, or at least not confirmed by anyone yet.

The biggest concern is price. The budget for light rail upgrades was $150 million. That’s already risen to $200 million. Another problem is that construction of the new cars has already started. While the contract with the manufacturer does allow for changes to the car’s design, the city MUST pay for work already done. And on a project that’s already $50 million over budget, that’s a problem. Check out more info here.

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