This is in response to The San Francisco Examiner’s Feb. 1 editorial about BART’s effort to replace our oldest-in-the-nation train cars. BART will continue to listen to the concerns of all stakeholders in this process, but we need to comply with all applicable laws, thus not jeopardizing federal funding.
BART’s new train cars will be assembled in America. That’s the law. The Federal Transit Administration requires that 60 percent of the value of the material be domestic and that final assembly take place in the U.S. However, FTA laws prohibit BART from considering where in the U.S. the final assembly will take place. If BART intends to use federal funds to help pay for these much-needed new cars, we cannot give preference to a car builder that says it is going to assemble the cars in California or even the Bay Area.
What BART can do, legally, is provide an incentive in the bid process for car builders to exceed the required 60 percent domestic content. To create and support jobs in the U.S., BART’s Buy America Bid Preference Policy, a first for U.S. transit agencies, factors in additional American-made content in the proposal scoring process.
The editorial also reported on the cost of our new fleet by citing a funding agreement that includes engineering and inspection expenses. These kinds of expenditures are important. Think of someone planning to buy a piece of land and then build a new home on it; among other things, they need to hire a land surveyor and an architect to design and oversee the project.
Designing the next generation of high-performance train cars for the unique features of BART is a quantum leap in complexity compared to building a house.
The estimated 16.9 percent on the base order of 260 cars (estimated total cost $1.3 billion) or 12.1 percent on an order of 775 cars (estimated total cost $3.2 billion) for those design, engineering, inspection, safety certification, testing and warranty administration services is well within the norm for transit agencies purchasing new vehicles.
For a contract of this size and complexity, prudent expenditures on project management is protection against schedule delays and cost overruns. They can help to ensure the cars that roll out of the car builder’s domestic assembly plant are ready to provide safe and reliable service to BART’s 370,000 daily riders.
Based on the pricing in initial proposals for the new car procurement, BART expects the pricing in final proposals will be such that BART will ultimately pay considerably lower average per-car prices if it is able to order all 775 cars, as compared to only the base order. Also, many engineering, design and testing costs are payable to the car builder only for the base order of cars.
While BART staff may have to occasionally visit a foreign country during the design and manufacturing process, it is inaccurate to say they will be living there. We do thank you for correctly noting that many of our train cars are 40 years old. An aging fleet makes it difficult to find replacement parts and requires more time and labor to keep them running. The economic risks of not properly reinvesting in BART to ensure safe, reliable transportation for future generations of riders are enormous.
Luna Salaver is a public information officer for BART Media and Public Affairs and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority.