TriMet REALLY announces news regarding Type 5 MAX train

No April Fools this time, just news that TriMet has proposed a resolution for the Board of Directors, to authorize a procurement of new Type 5 LRT vehicles, from Siemens. And no, they won’t really consist of 40′ busses tethered to flatbed railcars, as cool as that might sound. :)

Siemens, who manufactures the Type 2, Type 3, and Type 4 railcars presently used by MAX, was one of three entities bidding on the prior Request for Proposal; another was a joint venture between Stadler Rail, a Swiss railcar manufacturer, and OIW/United Streetcar. The third bidder was CAF USA, a US subsidiary of Spanish manufacturer CAF. Siemens had the strongest technical bid, and came in at a median price ($73.8M). For comparison, OIW had a median technical score, but demanded the highest price of $76.2M. CAF had the lowest bid ($69.7M) but also the lowest technical score.

Regarding the question of whether or not the OIW bid may have been preferable due to its local nature, especially given that the difference between the two bids was only $2.4M (and both bids were below the budgetary price in the project plans), TriMet noted in the resolution that:

While TriMet recognizes that the Project provides the opportunity to bring local jobs to the Portland area, federal regulations prohibit local preference as an evaluation criteria in the RFP. The Siemens contract price is $8 million below the Engineer’s estimate and well within TriMet’s budget for this contract.

The good news for OIW is that it didn’t get blown out of the water on technical evaluation; and did better than one of the established railcar manufacturers bidding on the deal. On the other hand, had OIW won the bid, it might have not gotten much design knowledge it would have gotten out of the deal, as I’m certain that Stadler engineers and not OIW engineers would be leading the design work–OIW’s role was in large part to permit Stadler, which currently doesn’t have any US assembly plants of its own, to gain access to the US market, specifically the bulk of FTA-funded projects subject to Buy America requirements.

Hat tip to Michael Andersen at Portland Afoot.


21 responses to “TriMet REALLY announces news regarding Type 5 MAX train”

  1. Saddened that the Type 5 is going to be similar to the Type 4 (hopefully with less cramped seats), or saddened that OIW didn’t get the business?

    It’s interesting that the Feds require regional favoritism on a national level (Buy America) but prohibit it on a local level….

  2. While it would have been nice to see the local company get the business, right now they should concentrate on streetcars, getting good at that then once that is perfected move onto bigger and better.

    The benefit of Siemens getting the order is that they have parts compatibility with the existing Type 2 through 4 cars.

  3. Anyone know how being $8 million below the engineer’s estimate affects the overall project? Do we get to start counting our contingency savings before they hatch?

  4. Will they be able to retire the type 1 trains after this order? I hate those high-floor vehicles. They are a pain for bike riders, and people on foot don’t want to walk up the steps. I’ve actually seen someone fall down the steps while trying to run off of the train.

  5. Retiring Type 1 trains?

    Probably not–this new train order is for the additional service needed for PMLR.

    And while Type 1 trains are functionally obsolete in some ways (they’re not ADA compliant without external wheelchair lifts, which is why they always travel coupled to a Type 2 or Type 3, so the train is ADA compliant even if not all cars in the consist are), they aren’t anywhere near the end of their service life. Unlike busses, which are only generally good for 12-15 years (and TriMet has some that are 20), the service life of a LRT car is several decades.

    Besides. Standing on the steps of a crushloaded Type 1 train, and having your nose against someone’s armpits, only adds to the experience. :)

  6. Aside from lack of low-floor-ness the original Max units, by Bombardier, remain by far the best TriMet has ever purchased.

    Seating: roomy; copious.

    Interior design: simple; elegant.

    Exterior: restrained; functional.

    Articulation: optimal; true Jacobs bogy.

    Propulsion: PCC–rubber-in-shear suspension; rubber isolation between steel tire and steel wheel; hypoid gearing between motor and axle.

    After 25 years of hard service they still ride more smoothly and quietly than anything Siemens has provided. Siemens’s latest are over-styled and under-engineered rubbish.

    Question: the latest units cannot be operated uncoupled; why maintain the discrete design of coupled cars? A continuous unit would be cheaper and more commodious.

  7. Question: the latest units cannot be operated uncoupled; why maintain the discrete design of coupled cars? A continuous unit would be cheaper and more commodious.

    That’s a really good point. Why not just couple them together and add more seats?

    I’m not a fan of the Type 4 cars. As a rider, I much prefer the 2/3 model. I wish Tri-Met had kept with those.

  8. A continuous unit would be cheaper and more commodious.

    I’ve thought about having them be subway-style. The problem, I think, is that everything (e.g. engineering, maintenance shops) is designed for single (~100 foot) vehicles, and there can be a desire to rearrange the cars into different trains if one is malfunctioning, though that could potentially still be accommodated. They still can be operated as singles in the yards.

  9. As far as I’m aware, the only reasons that Type 4s need to be coupled together is that during normal operations, trains are prohibited from running “backwards”, i.e. without a cab in the front of the train, and Type 4s only have a cab on one end.

    Is there any technical reason that Type 4s cannot be coupled to other types of trains, or is the practice of only coupling Type 4 trains together just a TriMet rule?

  10. I dont know much about these trains from a functional perspective, but as a rider, I still like the typ1 best. The stainless steel bars and seat backs give a completely clean and unified look. I Think the overall materials are better, more durable and have aged better than the others. The painted stanchions in the typ2-3 were cute but now gross and the wall panels are ugly. Overall, the fittings are not as strong but more stylized. Also enjoy the elevation change and the handling of the end stairs with operator cabin.

  11. One of the great things about LRT vehicles (and one that main fail to understand) is that they last so long. We stayed in Gothenburg, Sweden for a few days and used their LRT system quite a bit. You would see brand new trams right next to very old ones. All of them were in good working order.

    I’ve been wondering why we don’t have the option to go with a longer single consist like you see in the last picture above. Seems like we would gain a few seats and a lot of standing room. They won’t be running single car trains in the future.

  12. After 25 years of hard service they still ride more smoothly and quietly than anything Siemens has provided. Siemens’s latest are over-styled and under-engineered rubbish.

    When I have the option I prefer the ancient high-floor cars, for sure.

    Is there a reasonable technical explanation as to why those Type 1s are so much smoother? It’s extremely noticeable and drives me nuts. How on earth does this technology get worse over time? The Type 4s were talked up as being much smoother than the older trains when the Green line was launching but they’re not as smooth as the Type 1s. I think the only thing smoother about the Type 4s is less jerk while accelerating — but rolling around they’re rough compared to the Type 1s. Are there inherent sacrifices that must be made for a low-floor vehicle in the suspension system, or what?

    Jim listed a few features that are probably clues but I have no idea what they mean. Are these new cars going to be the same S70s? Maybe there will be some kinds of upgrades? Can I dream?

    I guess one advantage to more of the same is at least a more unified look across the fleet, but that’s purely an aesthetic preference on my part.

  13. “How on earth does this technology get worse over time?”


    If you had to use a wheelchair to get around, I don’t think you would be saying that.

    I’m sure there are a lot of compromises that need to be made to build lighter-weight low-floor cars.

  14. Low-platform vehicles have far less room for their suspensions systems than high-platform vehicles do. (And Type 1 MAX trains are essentially high-platform vehicles with onboard stairs to reach curb height).

    But as Chris notes, the main reason for low-platform designs is to assist the disabled (and more specifically, to comply with the ADA). I don’t think anyone wants to go back to the bad old days where MAX stations came equipped with trackside wheelchair lifts that took forever to use.

    The same applies to modern low-floor busses vs the older high-floor kind.

  15. Here’s my undocumented less-than-technical answer, as it was explained to me over a decade ago…

    In older high-floor cars, a lot of the equipment was housed under the floor. Much of this had to be moved to the roof for low-floor cars, making them more top-heavy. In addition, a portion the frame of a high-floor car is supported from the top, rather than a continuous undercarriage. You can think of the interior of a low-floor car as a sort of suspension bridge hanging below a support frame, while most everything on a high-floor car is built up from the bottom.

    The different distribution of weight and different frames account for a lot of the differing handling characteristics.

    Wide adoption of low-floor cars is a relatively recent phenomenon (about 15 years old in the US), so we can hope that there’s plenty of room for technical improvement with each new generation of cars, to catch up with the long history of development of traditional high-floor cars.

  16. As Scotty noted, the high floor cars took forever to load a handicapped rider. I recently rode the old Blue line down in San Diego and it was incredibly frustrating. At nearly every stop, the driver had to exit the cab and operate the lift. Very time consuming, and I’m sure the handicapped riders don’t appreciate the attention.

  17. Interesting comment about changing the weight distribution, I hadn’t thought about that. I have heard that some systems have high platforms in normal sidewalk settings so that the high-floor trains could load curbside with no stairs. Are these sorts of things going out of fashion with the new trend of low-floor vehicles?

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