Harris County Metropolitan Transit Authority voted in favour of purchasing 19 Siemens light-rail cars for METRO’s current rail system.
The first car could be delivered as early as October of 2012, a full year earlier than expected. Currently METRO Rail ridership is at capacity during rush hour. To date more than 75 million boardings have been recorded which puts the system four years ahead of schedule.
METRO Board Chairman Gilbert Garcia said the board had reviewed critical information about the current operating system which has no spares or backup units. “Houston needs and deserves a robust system. At the moment we have nothing to pick up the slack when cars are out of service. ”
In September a railcar procurement with CAF, a Spanish manufacturer, was terminated because METRO’s contract was in conflict with Buy America rules. Since then METRO has worked closely with the FTA to make sure it is in line with procurement requirements. This purchase will help get METRO back on track for improving rail service in Houston.
“You hear about the perfect storm, this is the perfect summer day of circumstances; the CAF settlement, the FTA approving this process, and Utah allowing us to move forward on purchasing cars which will provide extra units for our rail system,” said Garcia.
“Last fall we learned that the Utah Transit Authority would not be exercising its option for this block of light-rail cars. We know the cars and the manufacturer,” said METRO President & CEO George Greanias. He noted some modifications will have to be made but the cars meet Buy America requirements and were built in California.
“We believe this approach is one that allows us to recoup precious time and better serve our customers, especially during peak times like Rodeo. This purchase would allow a 50 percent increase in daily service and 100 percent for special events.”