Metro Magazine

SEP-OCT 2014

Magazine serving the bus and rail transit & motorcoach operations since 1904

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Page 11 of 143

Increased sales tax receipts could be the answer that transit agencies, such as Chicago's Metra, have been look- ing for. The Regional Transportation Authority officials said in late August they expect 4% growth in sales tax rev- enues, which means a larger 2015 tran- sit budget, according to a Chicago Sun- Times article. With no agreements finalized yet, Me- tra is still spending its budget conser- vatively. The commuter rail division re- cently started a rehabilitation program for 176 of its cars. The passenger cars are being refurbished in-house, by Me- tra workers. The Metra Rehab Facility just refur- bished car number 101 and plans to fin- ish the last car by late next year. Although the cars are not brand new, the agen- cy is saving more than $2 million per car by rehabbing rather than starting fresh. Regular rehabs on the cars will also pro- long the lifespan. "The average life of a railcar is 25 years, but by rehabbing the cars every 14 to 16 years, we can expect a 42-year-lifes- pan," said Don Orseno CEO of Metra. The rehabilitation program isn't only saving Metra money, but also making upgrades and adding amenities like ADA lifts, electrical outlets, new toilets, and new flooring and seating. "From a passenger perspective, you wouldn't be able to tell if the car was re- furbished or brand new," said Jim Der- winski, acting chief mechanical officer for Metra. The Metra Amerail Rehab Facility has 60 workers who are divided up be- tween four stations. The beginning of the process starts with stripping down the old car down to the bare bones of its frame. The final stage is where the new- ly remodeled car is tested. The assem- bly line of electricians, sheet metal work- ers and carmen have the process down to 36 days. The Federal Transit Administration is funding the Amerail Rehabilitation Program. The total budget is $115 mil- lion. The cars are being rehabilitated at the 49th St. Car Shop along the Rock Is- land Line. Although Metra has been saving mon- ey, there are still financial woes in the in- dustry. "Every year it seems the funding is shrinking and the needs are growing," said Orseno. One of those needs comes from a feder- al mandate making Positive Train Control (PTC) a necessity. PTC is a safety enhance- ment that commuter and freight railroads need to implement by next December. "Although it is a huge safety enhance- ment it is also costing huge dollars," said Orseno. "It's costing freight railroads around 10 billion and passenger rail- roads around three billion." Orseno has been with the Northeast Illinois commuter rail for more than 30 years. He began his career as a trainman for the Chicago Rock Island and Pacif- ic Railroad Co. 8 < m ETRO m AGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014 metro news Tight transit budgets force Chicago's Metra to rehab railcars Although the cars are not brand new, Metra is saving more than $2 million per car by rehabbing rather than starting fresh. Metra

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