BART is continuing to run bus bridges between Pittsburg/Bay Point and North Concord this morning following the still unsolved voltage-spike problem that took 50 cars out of service last week. There have been test trains, however, being run with passengers on them between the two stations, equipped with sensors to help engineers get to the root of the problem, and BART says in a release that "experts are providing a fresh set of eyes to the problem," and "Crews have been systematically identifying all possibilities and then eliminating them one by one." As KTVU reported this morning, they have actually run five to six test trains through the trouble area during Monday's rush hour.
Further, BART says that some quick repair work over the weekend put 36 more cars back into service since Friday. That means that 557 of BART's usual service fleet of 579 cars are in working condition today.
Matier & Ross report that BART "can't afford to lose any more cars," and while they've ordered 100 new units of the semiconductor part the thyristor that was damaged in voltage spikes, those parts won't arrive until August. Some BART cars have been repaired by pulling thyristors off of cars that were out of service for other types of damage. Meanwhile, the agency is apparently short 10 technicians, which is further slowing repair work.
All this chaos and ongoing commuter outrage has prompted a new look at BART's overall spending in the last decade or more, with the Chronicle suggesting that the agency focused too much on flashy "glamour" projects like new stations and the $484 million Oakland Airport Connector rather than investing in track maintenance and its core services.
BART Board member Tom Radulovich of San Francisco tells the paper he was often alone in calling for more investment in the core system. "It was not wrong to expand,” he says. “It would be great to serve all corners of the Bay Area, but we can’t expand at the expense of the existing system. And that’s what BART did.”
Supervisor Scott Wiener told ABC 7 "BART is in absolute crisis right now... [and] is unraveling." And District 3 BART Director Rebecca Saltzman tells the station, "I've seen track stamped 1968, so we really need to get out and repair and replace it."
No one could predict the voltage spikes that occurred both near West Oakland station and at the end of the line near Pittsburg, but it's clear that such a huge maintenance event was not something that the already overtaxed system was prepared for, and East Bay commuters are paying the price in time, uncomfortably crowded rides, and inconvenience.
BART is expected to release a further progress report later today.