As reported earlier (Not Very Smart), SMART has decided against purchasing modern off-the-shelf trainsets. Instead, the inexperienced SMART staff will oversee contractors to design a new train from scratch.
A San Francisco firm has been selected to write the specifications and design requirements for the trains, tracks and stations for the Sonoma-Marin commute rail system.
“It is the train and all the systems for the project, that being the signals, communications, dispatch,” said Chris Coursey, spokesman for Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit. “It is the whole kit and kaboodle for the trains and controls and all that makes it work.”
The firm, LTK Engineering Services, also will support SMART in its dealings with the Federal Railroad Administration and state Public Utilities Commission, which oversee railroads.
The contract is for $2 million and runs through December 2010.
What an amazing coincidence that the firm hired to custom-design these globally-unique trains is the very same firm that wrote the study recommending SMART not use off-the-shelf rolling stock.
Sadly, this is an all too common occurrence in passenger rail projects. Consultants have enormous incentive to choose the alternative that benefits only themselves, rather than the taxpaying public. In this case, LTK recommendation is the design of (in effect) a proprietary system that shuts out all other competition.
The obvious result is going to be ludicrous cost and poor operating performance. In every case where rail transit agencies have designed custom rolling stock, passengers got stuck with unreliable and expensive equipment.
All across Europe, projects quite similar to SMART are being built every year. Those projects go into operation with with minimal time and cost using nothing more than standard off-the-shelf parts — without having to spend 10 years and millions of dollars designing custom rolling stock from scratch.
The “modern” train SMART had proposed to operate until its preferred vendor went bankrupt