The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is suspending Atlanta Streetcar service through the New Year due to safety concerns found during a recent inspection, thought to be caused by a wheel issue that was first identified in the first quarter of 2021.
The reasoning behind the decision was detailed by MARTA’s Deputy Chief Mechanical Officer Daniel Hecht during a board meeting. Hecht explained that regular wear and tear of the wheel profile first noticed in 2021 caused issues with the track switch, where some bolts were found to be loosened and there was damage to the concrete close to the platform.
Hecht explained that when the wheel issue was first discovered, MARTA had planned to have the wheels replaced, however, due to a worldwide wheel shortage the work was pushed into this year after its supplier, Siemens, was able to finally procure the wheels.
The original plan was to ship the vehicles out one at a time to have the wheels replaced, beginning this month. But, when routine track inspections found the issues with the switch, the decision was made to place a safety hold on Nov. 29 and expedite the wheel replacement across the entire Atlanta Streetcar fleet.
Hecht added the decision was made because of the risk associated with the continued degradation of the wheels, to protect the public and the brand name, to protect the track after the issues were identified, and to “walk the walk” that MARTA is a safety-oriented organization.
MARTA detailed the process for repairing the vehicles, which includes:
- Unhooking the truck assemblies.
- Lifting the Trains.
- Shipping the trucks to Siemens facility in Sacramento, Calif., for repair.
- Overhaul the vehicles over an eight-week timeline.
- Ship the trucks back to MARTA.
- Install rebuilt trucks.
In place of the streetcar service, MARTA will run cutaway vehicles, which will provide service to each of the streetcars stops on 15-minute intervals. The vehicles will eventually be wrapped to maintain brand awareness, as well as ridership. The vehicles will also be driven by the same operators who operate the streetcars to help maintain familiarity for riders who frequently utilize the service.