High-Tech Trolleys Criticized : Transit: RTD officials say the driverless trains proposed for the Green Line will be too expensive. They favor the equipment the Blue Line uses.


One day after engineers said the Metro Rail Green Line will cost as much as $276 million more than planned, the Southern California Rapid Transit District board on Thursday urged the county to throw out the line’s high-tech driverless trains in favor of off-the-shelf technology.

On a 6-3 vote, the RTD board recommended that the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission abandon plans for driverless cars on the Norwalk-to-El Segundo Green Line and adopt Blue Line trolleys as the standard for all light-rail lines.

LACTC documents show that the Green Line originally was scheduled to cost $814 million. Problems with construction, routing and technology threaten to push that cost to more than $1 billion, engineers said Wednesday.

The LACTC’s construction subsidiary, the Rail Construction Corp., is scheduled to award contracts Monday to build 41 Green Line cars and the computerized train-control system to guide the driverless, 70-m.p.h. vehicles.


RTD Director Carl Raggio, who introduced Thursday’s motion, said he hopes the commission will reconsider its support of the increasingly expensive Green Line design before awarding those contracts.

“It is crucial we have a standardized approach to building rail systems, thereby allowing common training, maintenance and operation techniques throughout the system,” Raggio said.

“I see no advantage to the patron in having many different kinds of rail systems. I do anticipate unnecessarily high costs in having to train mechanics and operators to work on different systems with different parts and different operating procedures.”

LACTC Board Chairman Ray Grabinski of Long Beach said traditional Blue Line technology is politically unacceptable.


“The political realities sometimes outweigh practical concerns,” he said. “This will run through some areas where people simply won’t tolerate light rail.”

Green Line budget increases were not unexpected, he said. The commission routinely plans lean budgets to encourage economy, but plans for adding funds later as problems arise.