Panel OKs Deal to Buy 40 Bi-Level Rail Cars


Taking another step toward launching a Southern California commuter rail system by the end of 1992, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission has approved a $51-million purchase of 40 Canadian bi-level commuter cars for use primarily on runs from Los Angeles to San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

The purchase from the UTDC firm of Kingston, Ontario, calls for delivery of the first 162-seat car in early 1992 and delivery of all cars by July, 1992. In addition, the commission has an option to buy 40 more cars, 20 to be used by San Diego transportation authorities and eight to provide service from Los Angeles to Santa Clarita.

Transportation authorities in Southern California have envisioned beginning the commuter service with four daily trains each way on each route out of Los Angeles. San Diego envisions commuter service to Oceanside.

The projected commuter rail system would serve such points as San Bernardino, Riverside, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Fullerton and the San Fernando, Simi and Santa Clarita valleys with the lines basically radiating out of Los Angeles Union Station. The San Diego lines would be separate.


Dana Reed, chairman of the Orange County Transportation Commission, Thursday said now that Los Angeles has acted, he expects Orange County will approve a separate purchase of 18 cars. He said he has been told Riverside County also may make a separate purchase.

“The idea is if we all buy the same cars, we can trade and mix and match and have a single integrated system as opposed to five different lines,” Reed said.

Negotiations are being pursued with General Motors to buy compatible locomotives to pull the cars. The ensemble of locomotive with cars recently made a national tour and was on display at Union Station.

UTDC already has 300 of the cars operating, mostly in 10-car trains, in the Toronto area, where daily patronage has steadily grown to about 85,000 people, company officials said. A smaller number of cars also is running along a commuter line between Miami and West Palm Beach, Fla. Operating speeds range up to 84 m.p.h., with 70 m.p.h. common.


“We have more than a decade experience operating these cars, and there has been high satisfaction with them,” said Byron Nordberg, UTDC’s West Coast representative. He said the Los Angeles cars with some California modifications will be built at Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The Transportation Commission, which agreed to the initial purchase as an authorized agent for Los Angeles and other Southern California counties, voted 8 to 2 after a lengthy hearing Wednesday to choose the Canadian cars over ones offered by Japan’s Sumotomo Corp.

The larger Canadian cars are more expensive than the Japanese ones, but their per-seat cost is lower.

UTDC officials say each car can be loaded or unloaded in under two minutes, and with full “crush” loads can each carry as many as 400 people, many of them standing.