• Equipment shortages & cancellations

  • Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.
Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

Moderators: CRail, sery2831

  by BandA
Historically they rented from GO Transit (Ontario) in the ?80s? Eventually some stuff had to go back due to electrical fires. I also read somewhere that Canadian HEP needed adapters and/or voltage change.
  by MBTA3247
Canada uses 575V for HEP, compared to 480V used here in the US.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
Arborwayfan wrote:Could Keolis (or the T) rent a whole set or two (locomotives and cars) from someone to ease the shortage while they catch up on inspections and repairs? I'm thinking of renting from IP, or the Providence and Worcester, or one of the many tourist lines within a couple hundred miles, or even from Canada (even if they are spare Canadian LD coaches), and keeping the foreign equipment together in a couple of trains so as not to have compatibility issues between coaches.

Operationally impossible b/c no heat and/or no ac?
Operationally impossible b/c crew training needed?
Operationally impossible b/c speed restrictions?
.... south side b/c no cab signals?
....b/c no cab cars?
....b/c equipment not in good enough condition for constant use?
....b/c equipment not up to ADA?
....b/c some other reason?

Too expensive/not enough incentive in the Keolis contract?
Tourist lines need all their cars in the Christmas season and obviously in the summer and leaf season?
Some other reason it can't work?
The problem is Keolis can't keep up with the maintenance because staffing is so anemic. That's the whole reason we're in this emergency situation of coaches slipped hopelessly behind inspection schedule and RFP's having to be issued because the F40PH-2C dead line has hit double-digits with no hope of internal bandwidth to mount that many major repairs. Introduce any foreign vehicles that need prep time and it just makes the problem worse. It's not a situation where material reinforcements are going to help, because labor is the problem. Labor is why the stored MBB's aren't an option. If the active roster isn't keeping up with inspections, prep-for-service on stuff that's been sitting in Rochester and Davisville for 14 months missing multiple inspection cycles is doubleplus futile.

As for leaser coaches, there simply aren't many commuter-ready bodies available for high-boarding territory. NJ Transit has scrapped all its remaining retired Comets; they were for years the go-to source for rent-a-wreck coaches for the longest time. MARC has scrapped most of it's MARC IIA's. MARC and NJT are still loaning what few extras they have to SEPTA as they recover from the Silverliner V debacle. And that's it for 48-inch platform territory. There's huge reserves of aftermarket coaches for 8-inch territory...Bombardier BLV's and gallery cars out the wazoo. Midwest and West...piece of cake to get good-quality loaner bodies! But it's an aftermarket famine on the East Coast because BLV's and galleries can't interface at all with a full-high platform, and NJT + MNRR + the T are behind-schedule on coach procurements vs. where their long-term fleet plans say they should be by now.

The excursion stock is generally not robust enough to take a daily pounding in commuter service. And most of it is grandfathered on accessibility. Can't grandfather on commuter rail acquisitions...big legal no-no. So even combing the whole country for enough spare ADA-accessible excursion stock somebody would want to loan out that could be used as-is here is an enormous...and probably futile task. There simply isn't enough of it that passes accessibility muster when you have bendy grandfathering for excursion-class carriers, and no give whatsoever for public transit. Even if it was earlier-gen Comet coaches just a few years older than the 200-series Pullmans...egresses are probably not going to be wide enough for wheelchairs, seats would probably have to be yanked out, emergency lighting/exits and first-aid cabinets would need upgrading. The 200's, recall, were remanufactured in 1996 and got all these ADA touches. So did the NJT Comet I's and IB's that got passed around to other agencies. Iowa Pacific, despite its vast portfolio of excursion carriers, had to do the same with the coach fleet it cobbled together for running the Amtrak Hoosier State. That's just not something you can do in 2 weeks with pre-ADA flotsam. And certainly not something the T can do when the root problem is labor, and not being able to keep up on inspections for the active roster.

Yes...cab signals and ACSES are a big problem with cab cars and rental locomotives. Northside-only, like it was with last year's Screamer rent-a-wrecks. That doesn't help the cab numbers when the labor problem is what's keeping the 1600's bottled up north unable to help the equipment crunch down south, and the labor problem prevents the stored 1500's from getting any prep-for-service. Cabs are mostly a problem because the 16's can't provide any help balancing out the south. If Keolis had any internal bandwidth, simply installing those cab + ACSES units in the 16's would probably alleviate the cabs shortage in full. They've even got the half of the 1600 fleet that had its cabs disabled long ago and are now just running as trailers that they could RFP for reactivation if they wanted a flex fleet to run as trailers or cabs, or to whack the last of the ailing 1500's, or to simply table cabs as any sort of long-term concern and focus their energies on trailers and locos as the five-alarm equipment shortages most in need of resources.

Power...yup, we saw last year that the diminishing returns of the rent-a-wreck market just aren't a cure-all. And the problem is...once again...labor. The F40 dead line is as critical as it is because they can't stay ahead of repairs. Rent-a-wrecks that are a bigger pain in the butt for day-to-day crap-outs? Yup...labor's going to make keeping them on the road just as big a problem. Exactly as it was with the ex-AMT Screamers and ex-MARC Geeps that didn't fix the shortages. Unfortunately the aftermarket's in a tough place right now...HUGE numbers of pretty decent-condition units are coming available soon as agencies make their Tier 4 new diesel purchases. Stuff way better than beat-to-snot Screamers, like F59PH's, and lots of spare GE Geneses that Amtrak will be able to loan freely. But they aren't available NOW because those newfangled Siemens Charger and EMD F125 orders aren't going to be delivered until 2017-19. And other agencies like CDOT and Metra are still in-progress or about to kick off rebuild programs for their older power, meaning they need their reserves in-house for the next 2-3 years. Temporary power crunch nationwide because so many procurements are at that vulnerable mid-progress stage. And same deal with cab signals...none of those F40 and F59 users out west have them, the Canadians have that voltage difference, and the NEC-member RR's and Amtrak are hoarding for their own shortages and mid-progress procurements.

No easy answers.
  by BandA
How did Keolis develop such a labor shortage when MBCR didn't have that problem?
Could P&W service some of the engines out in Worcester?
Could freight engines be lashed together with an HEP "power car" (portable generator on a flatbed). Problem of crew access between cars, and I read that brake systems are different between freight & passenger. Top speeds vary too. I imagine most T lines operate within the speed range of a freight engine.
  by BostonUrbEx
BandA wrote:How did Keolis develop such a labor shortage when MBCR didn't have that problem?
The media only did a soundbite of a story when they mentioned a handful of mechanical employees being fired for stealing time. It was merely the tip of the iceberg.
  by Red Wing
One plus side of shorter trains, I don't have to wait for the train to leave North Billerica before I cross the tracks to my car.
  by Backshophoss
So there was a major "housecleaning" at BET? It will take time to hire the "right" personal needed.
  by BandA
According to a newspaper article at the time, Keolis refused to hire the incumbent MBCR chief engineer. When they tried to hire a Bombardier employee, MBTA employees contacted that person and also let Bombardier know that their employee was interviewing, which he hadn't told them. That employee withdrew his application and ended up leaving Bombardier. Keolis ended up filing a complaint with the state or something. If you remember it took them a very long time to fill this critical position, ending up with someone from an airline mechanical department.

I was surprised that the people let go at BET were called "machinists" in the newspaper article. Although BET would need some machinists, I would think the majority of people working in a repair shop would be classified as mechanics.
  by BandA
So it does sound like "tip of the iceberg" combined with bad timing when the economy is improving and probably good mechanical folks are hard to find.
  by Backshophoss
You have many trades working in BET,Machinist is one of them,Electric,Sheet Metal,"wrenches",
Remember MBCR(BBD,etc) left many "parting gifts" behind for Keolis to clean up...
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
BandA wrote:So it does sound like "tip of the iceberg" combined with bad timing when the economy is improving and probably good mechanical folks are hard to find.
This understaffing wasn't a new thing when MBCR left town, either. The FCMB is in it up to its eyeballs at every meeting about major positions at each of the agency's major divisions that have been unstaffed for ages...and unstaffed all the way up the chain such that they don't have the hiring managers who are supposed to hire the most decimated and mission-critical front line ranks. And it's up to its eyeballs in decisions about what's a fair price to pay for acquiring talent. Because it's not the bus drivers they're shortest on or positions that can be filled by reassigning some auto-promoted rapid transit div. inspectors somewhere more useful...but the certified machinists and engineers and procurement managers who have the most competitive job market in decades to choose from at railroads and transit agencies across the East Coast megalopolis. The T and prior CR operators have poached plenty of talent from other roads back when they were the ones offering the best pay, career advancement, and job environment. The market giveth and taketh away...and the market piles on once an exodus of high-skill employees starts to snowball. So it was bad before Keolis stumbled and staggered out the starting gates running the Purple Line. It was/is bad in the rapid transit division. It was/is bad in the bus shops. It was/is bad in the procurement department. It was/is bad with every project management arm who was supposed to provide oversight to some outside contractor, from GLX right down to inventorying the lugnut in the parts warehouse.

This iceberg tip has been grinding against the ship's hull for a long, long time. You don't end up at a level of staffing-related paralysis this broad and deep without it being real long in the making, many levels up and down on the food chain, and many departments and contractors wide across the whole agency. They're already in it deep and long before we as passengers ever see direct outlying effects of the chronic understaffing hurting service. That these effects are now quantifiable, acute, daily, and systemwide is...well, it's really freaking bad.
  by Trinnau
Diverging Route wrote:Article in today's Globe.

Interesting, no mention at all of jobs "blanked" due to crew shortages, that I understand have occurred on a number of occasions.
Blanked jobs have to go very deep to really be an impact on day-to-day service. There are several crews assigned to non-revenue service that get pulled into revenue service when a revenue job is blanked. If all available crew options are exhausted Keolis can call on front-line managers to cobble together another half a dozen or so more crews.

And the November cancellation number for the Worcester Line is skewed by an evening rush-hour fatality the week before Thanksgiving. That probably accounted for half of them.
  by ns3010
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Does this include doing the much-delayed cab signal + PTC installations to the 1600-series cabs so they no longer have to be bottled-up exclusively north? I'm sure it's not helping this mix-and-match game of desperation to still be hamstrung by classes of equipment that are non-portable across the whole system.

The 1600s have/had cab signal equipment (but not ACSES), although it's mostly likely non-operable or removed at this point. From my understanding, the reason that they don't run South is because Amtrak has imposed a ban on them due to not having a suppression position on the brake stand. This would be a huge cost to remedy, hence why it has never been done.

(It's been a while since the above was last explained to me, so if there are any additions/corrections, have at it)
  by CRail
ns, that is my understanding as well.