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Refurbished Light Rail Cars Boost Regional Transit’s Capacity


The Sacramento Regional Transit District added newly refurbished cars to its light rail service on Tuesday. RT officials say the additional cars mean increased flexibility in meeting the needs of riders.

Mike Wiley is the general manager of Regional Transit, he took reporters on a tour of the new vehicles at a press event Tuesday.

“We’re on one of our new refurbished vehicles we’ve purchased from Santa Clara San Jose transit and we’re getting ready to place into service to provide more vehicles for our riding public,” says Wiley. “Once we’re done refurbishing all 21 it will increase our fleet to a total of 97 light rail cars, which will give us a lot more flexibility and carrying capacity on the system.”

Wiley says his favorite feature on the new trains is the air suspension.

“All of our other cars are a spring hydraulic suspension - these are air, they’re much more comfortable,” he says. “They’re a longer car, so we can carry more passengers per car. They accelerate really well, so they move out of the stations quickly. They’re smooth in braking. Just all around they’re a very comfortable car.”

Interior Light Rail Car - 7005

Wiley says when the downtown Sacramento arena is built RT will more than meet the transit demands of events.

“With the fleet that we have and the frequency of operations we’ll have the capacity to carry 50 percent of attendees at all arena events. I’m not sure we’ll get up to 50 percent of all attendees, but we’ll have that capacity and we’ll be prepared to handle that level of load.”

Regional Transit got $7.1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds toward the project.

“By buying [the cars] used and refurbishing the way we did they probably cost us about 25 percent the cost of a brand new vehicle,” says Wiley.

Siemens is about halfway through refurbishing a total of 21 cars. The trains were used by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority from 1987 until 2003 when RT bought them and put them in storage.

Chris Maynard is vice president of customer service for Siemens Mobility, the company that did the car restoration.  

“The lifespan of an average light rail vehicle is about 30 years,” says Maynard. “These vehicles are already at the 30-year mark - or getting very close. What we’ve done is a midlife refurbishment giving them another half-life.”

The refurbish includes improved ADA access, a new paint scheme, and better safety features, like event recorders and the electronic communication system.

“They’ve very safe, they’re an excellent riding vehicle and they’re one of the best riding vehicles in the fleet right now,” says Maynard, who test rode the car last month. “The ride was smooth, it was very quiet. This vehicle rode amazingly well.”