Video: Unknown electrical problem causing BART trains to lose service


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — BART cars are being knocked out of service while going through the Transbay Tube, causing more delays and overcrowding as BART runs shorter trains, BART officials confirm.

Since last Friday, 80 of these cars have been knocked out of service.

BART spokesman Jim Allison said BART has had intermittent problems with train cars being knocked out of service while going through the tube, which runs under the Bay and connects the East Bay with San Francisco, but the problem became more frequent starting on Feb. 20 and reached the “watershed” stage on Monday.

Allison said, “We’ve seen a decrease in the number of propulsion failures since we changed our power supply configuration” on Thursday and he expects that number to “dramatically decrease this weekend and next week.”

However, Allison said BART crews “will go out again tonight to try to pinpoint why this is occurring and look at it in more detail.”

It is unknown what is causing the problem that is affecting a certain model of BART cars with older propulsion equipment, BART officials said.

These cars are having voltage fluctuation as they head east through the Transbay Tube, which is damaging some of the trainer’s electrical components.

BART spokeswoman, Alicia Trost, says the bulk of the cars were damaged last Friday and Monday which has lead to overcrowding. For example, on Friday morning, 17 trains ran one car short.

When this problem does happen to a car, it doesn’t die or limp along. Train operators are notified and they shut off propulsion to that car. That car continues to run until it reaches the end of the line where it is then removed.

BART has not yet identified the problem but has found that by taking a power substation offline, the problem has stopped. With that power supply off, they are running trains through redundant systems.

While this has stopped the problem, it still does not explain why this is happening. BART says there is no visible or physical “smoking gun” to point to.

BART officials plan to run more testing to find out the cause.

In the meantime, they are beginning to repair those 80 cars that have been knocked out of service and will be put back in service over time.

There is no safety concern and no risk for BART operators or riders, according to BART officials.

This is not a first problem of it’s kind, but this has happened to a lot of cars at once, which sets this incident apart.

BART’s goal is to have 62 trains running at full 10-car length during peak commuting hours but 18 trains ran short on Thursday and 17 trains ran short during the morning commute Friday, Allison said.

“That’s not anywhere close to where we want to be,” Allison said.

BART hopes to be back to its normal train car count by Monday but it might take a while before there’s a permanent solution to the problem, he said.

When train cars get knocked out of service they have to be towed to repair yards at the end of BART lines, according to Allison.

The transit agency then has to run shorter trains, which can carry fewer passengers, he said.

The problem is coming at a bad time for BART because in February it set an all-time ridership record by averaging 446,650 on weekdays, Allison said.

Bay City News contributed to this report

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