Metro Board Wrap: New Members, Delayed Rail Car Decision and 2001 LRTP

3_26_09_union.jpgThere was a strong union presence at today’s meeting, and most weren’t wearing yellow shirts.

When I arrived at this morning’s Metro Board meeting, I was surprised that the line to get in the board room stretched out the door.  Most of those filling the room were members of local construction unions there to pressure the Metro Board to not allow a contract with Ansaldo Breda to expire.  Ansaldo Breda is a company that constructs rail cars, currently has a contract with Metro and has "promised" to open a factory in Los Angeles County if it receives a contract to construct 100 more light rail cars for Metro utilizing Measure R funds. 

The unions were ultimately successful as the Metro Board voted overwhelmingly to support extending their contract with Breda for two months.  It doesn’t mean they gave Breda the construction contract, but that if Breda satisfactorily fulfills its current contract that they would receive the contract for the new cars without putting it out to bid.

After a brief presentation by Metro Board Member Richard Katz, who holds one of the seats appointed by Mayor Villaraigosa and sponsored the resolution, union leaders and members took to the microphone stand to demand that the Metro Board break federal and state law and consider the location of a factory when deciding who should build rail cars.  One speaker went so far as to remind the Board Members that they were all politicians and should make political decisions.  "The Cathedral is down that way for altruism," he concluded to the hoots and hollars of the audience.  Charming.

While Katz will go down in the record as the author of this legislation, it was clearly Villaraigosa’s project.  At one point the Board Chair accidently accepted a friendly ammendment to Katz’s proposal without checking with the "author" and also took it upon himself as Board Chair to interrupt comments by Board Member Antonovich, who spoke against the proposal so that outgoing CEO Roger Snoble could "respond to his concerns."

Of course, there’s a lot more to the debate than whether or not a factory opening would be good for Los Angeles.  Breda is already three years behind schedule in delivering light rail cars under its current contract with Metro, and the cars they have built are 6,000 pounds heavier than they should be.  Back in January, the Metro Board seemed interested in going to bid for the new cars, but seems to have changed its mind after an intense lobbying effort by Breda officials.  For more on the history of Ansaldo Breda and Metro, read this article in last week’s Times.

The oddness of the about face was noted by Board Member and Santa Monica City Councilwoman Pam O’Conner who noted Breda already had a local job program, hiring lobbyists.  She also wondered what promises Breda had made to its plant employees in Pittsburgh, CA where they already have a construction plant.  O’Conner ultimately abstained.

As he did with Metro’s attempt to keep us safe from terrorists by installing turnstiles at some rail stations, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky poked light rail-sized holes in the proposal then voted for it.  Responding to a comment by Snoble that extending the contract would allow Metro to leverage getting the cars it had already paid for, Yaroslavsky huffed, "I’m not sure who’s leveraging whom here."  Later, after getting a list of everything that the Metro CEO hoped to get out of the contract, including on time delivery of the cars, Yaroslavsky wondered how that would be possible since they are already 3 months late.

In other news, Mayor Villaraigosa finally appointed two new members to the Metro Board to join him and Katz in representing the city.  Surprisingly, the new members were LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson and City Councilman Jose Huizar.  It had been widely speculated that Villaraigosa would appoint Bill Rosendahl to the spot for City Council Members because he has been involved in many transportation issues and is rumored to succeed Wendy Greuel as chair of the City’s transportation committee.  As I noted back when Bernard Parks stepped down from the Board, Huizar is no stranger to transportation issues:

Recently, he was the Council Member who first brought the idea of
piloting late night train service during the holiday season that ran on
completely private funding from November until January.  He is a major
force behind bringing trolley service to Broadway and was one of the few Council Members who aggressively fought Metro’s service cut plans for buses in the Spring of last year.

Oh, and unlike many Board Members, Huizar knows how to ride a bus. He is also an outspoken advocate for bringing a trolley to broadway, a project that thrills East Side and Valley pols that are still trying to get additions to the Gold Line.

While Robinson earns high marks for her organizational and leadership skills, she’s hardly known for her expertise on transportation.  True to form, I’m not sure she made one comment in the over three hour meeting after accepting her new seat.

Metro also debated officially adding the Measure R project list to the Long Range Plan.  I have to admit to getting it wrong yesterday.  I assumed they were adding it to the Draft LRTP from last year that is still languishing waiting for a final vote.  The vote was actually to add it to the 2001 LRTP which Metro is still operating under.  But don’t worry, they sent it back to committee for no apparent reason so it wasn’t added to any LRTP. 

Oh, and the 2008 LRTP?  The Board is planning on voting on it sometime this summer.

  • mechazawa

    hey i saw you at the meeting heard you speak. i found it strange(in a good way) to actually see the person behind the blog as i never really have done before. kudos to you sir.

  • Thanks for the report, Damien. Sometime I should buy you lunch as a thank you for all your hard work.

    This reminds me why I don’t attend Metro Board meetings any more–so painful to watch political sausage making at its bloodiest.

    The whole thing reeks of lobbyist back room dubious advocacy a la the gating. Who cares where the plant is if the cars built stink?

  • Erik
  • Fabio Ficano

    Damien,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to attend today’s session. It was quite an atmosphere — the hard hats from Labor were very impressive.

    AnsaldoBreda would very much like the opportunity to meet with you (and if you want to open the meeting up to the public we would welcome that opportunity, as well).

    I am providing you some material that may be helpful, including the statement and background we made available to the press today; Breda’s Commitment Letter provided, at MTA’s request; and the LAEDC economic analysis of our proposal.

    Below is the statement we gave to the press that asked for our response to today’s vote. Needless to say, we want to work with the Board, the staff and those who ride the trains to make sure we are providing the best trains possible.

    “With Los Angeles facing unemployment above 12% and the nation suffering through the worst economic/jobs crisis since the Great Depression, AnsaldoBreda is fully committed to working with LACMTA and County of Los Angeles so as it can become a valuable member of the Los Angeles community, including locating a green manufacturing facility that will, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Council, generate directly and indirectly more than 3,000 local jobs, $368.5 million in continued sustained economic development the recapturing of taxpayer money to benefit the people of the County of Los Angeles.

    We deeply appreciate Board Members doing exactly what they should do with regards to representing the best interest of the County, and AnsaldoBreda will, of course, over the next 60 days continue to work with the LACMTA to hopefully address issues to their satisfaction and demonstrate the company’s willingness to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to Los Angeles. To begin making clear the company’s seriousness of purpose, AnsaldoBreda has provided, at LACMTA’s request, a legally binding formal Commitment Letter obligating the company to locate the proposed facility to Los Angeles, as well as several other commitments, or risk forfeiting the contract and facing significant financial penalties”

  • NoHo Mom

    So I suppose those factories you guys promised to build in Pittsburgh, Miami and Madrid were just figments of your imagination?

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-rutten25-2009mar25,0,2222652.column

  • David Lancaster

    We have got to raise a fuss over this. The way AnsaldoBreda is manipulating the MTA is absolutely disgusting. Even though we desparately need jobs in LA County, especially green, union ones, contracts made through ANY public agency need to be made with the county’s best interests in mind. This means holding contractors to the highest level of accountability.

    The Red Line subway was initially supposed to go down Wilshire Blvd, but Henry Waxman had it it halted and rerouted in an unadvantageous way for what is now known to be clearly political reasons. More concerning were the cost overruns and late completion of the project that to many at the time spelled the end of new light rail/subway construction. The early completion of the Gold line extension marks a new era in the Metro. It may be easy or convienent to forget a general feeling of mistrust of the MTA and the accountability of its leadership that existed in the darker days of the 80’s and 90’s.

    If the MTA commissioners bend to the pressure of unions to accept a contract extension for a mediocre product, it would be an embarassment to the authority. I mean, if someone agrees to provide you with 50 cars and delivers them 3 years late and 3 tons heavier than expected, why the hell would you make another order that would triple the original one? We could do so much better with making our bidding system competitive. Creating a few hundred green union jobs is not worth hundreds of millions of dollars on inferior equipment. The people of Los Angeles deserve better than that.

  • Erik

    “- the hard hats from Labor were very impressive.”

    Actually Fabian, they were thuggish and meant to intimidate.

    So are these cars gonna take as long as the IC4 in Denmark or the Type 8’s in Boston? And how long did it take to get the SL95’s in Oslo to run satisfactorily? And what’s this I read about Gothenburg’s M32’s all being suddenly removed from service in February?

    How many years behind schedule are the Albatros trains in Holland now? 2 years already?

  • Spokker

    Fabio Ficano, thank you for taking the time to comment here. Few companies would do that. But in the interest of full and complete honesty, your company is really terrible and many of us don’t want to ride in your mediocre trains.

  • NoHo Mom

    Well, Copenhagen isn’t happy….

    Front page News National DSB ‘no longer believes in’ IC4
    DSB ‘no longer believes in’ IC4
    WEDNESDAY, 25 MARCH 2009 09:42 RC NEWS

    Fourteen IC4 trains (above) are supposed to arrive by May but national rail service DSB is not holding its breath (File Photo)

    Executives at the state rail service have a backup plan ready in case its next generation of passenger trains are not delivered by the May deadline

    National rail service DSB has indicated that it doubts whether Italian company Ansaldobreda can meet its deadline to deliver 14 IC4 passenger trains by May.

    After repeated delays delivering the latest generation of passenger trains, DSB gave Ansaldobreda a final ultimatum last year that the first of a total of 83 IC4s would be in service by May 2009.

    Ansaldobreda was originally supposed to have delivered the first the IC4s by 2003, with all being fully operational by 2006.

    Eight trains have been delivered, but only three are operational, and all still have problems, according to DSB.

    ‘I’d like to be able to say that I hope the deadline is met, but I’ve stopped believing in the IC4,’ said Søren Eriksen, DSB’s managing director, told TV2 news.

    Eriksen said DSB was initiating a back-up plan should the IC4s not arrive in May. He said up to 45 double-decker trains, along with three IC3s and an additional three InterCityExpress trains loaned from Germany’s state rail service Deutsche Bahn will be ready to be put into service.

    He added that the failed delivery of the IC4s would result in DSB having to annul its 5 billion kroner contract with Ansaldobreda. DSB has already paid Ansaldobreda 3.5 billion kroner.

    A spokesperson from Ansaldobreda told The Copenhagen Post that the company was not a liberty to comment on the situation.

    Currently, one IC4 train operates Monday through Thursday between Aalborg, Aarhus and Copenhagen.

  • Spokker

    Yeah, I’ve been reading all the problems they’ve been having around the world on other blogs.

    Those who have followed issues surrounding the MTA in the past are understandably sensitive about the deals or decisions they make. It would surprise me, based on everything I have just read, if the MTA continues its relationship with Breda.

  • Fabio Ficano

    Dear NoHo Mom,
    I understand your concerns, and those would be mine too if they were true.
    Please, read the retraction that the L.A. Times published the day after the commentary written by Mr. Rutten. According to the editor at the L.A. Times, this was the biggest retraction in their history. Please, read it:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oew-ficano25-2009mar25,0,3078055.story

  • Fabio Ficano

    Dear NoHo Mom,
    Please accept my apologies. What I meant to say is that I would share your concerns if the allegations were true. Fortunately, they are not.

  • NoHo Mom

    Dear Mr. Ficano,

    I am confused. I read your rebuttal to Mr. Rutten’s column but saw no official retraction from the Los Angeles Times. Please provide a link to the retraction from the editorial staff, I am curious to read it.

  • Fabio Ficano

    Dear NoHo Mom,
    The errata-corrige was published on Thursday paper.
    On line you will find it clicking on the following link:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-cx25-2009mar26,0,7470123.story

    Glad I could help.
    Thanks for your attention.
    .F.F.

  • Fabio Ficano:

    Would Breda be interested in maiking a presentation at an upcoming Transit Advoactes meeting?

    http://www.socata.net/meetings.html

    April and May already have speakers reserved but June is open so far.

    Below is the link to the form on our website by which to contact us. And of course as always our meetings are open to the public and well publicized. An excellent opportunity to meet as you put it “those who ride the trains”.

    http://www.socata.net/feedback.htm

  • Marcotico

    Mr. Ficano,

    I commend you for taking the time to address your company’s image in this forum. However the retraction only addressed the issues regarding the promises to build other plants, and the exact number of jobs created. Can you comment on the negative experiences regarding late deliveries reported by bloggers and newspapers here and in other jurisdictions (Boston, Atlanta, Copenhagen, etc.)?

    That is really the heart of the matter.

  • NoHo Mom

    Read the retraction, thanks. I would also welcome the opportunity to hear Mr. Ficano speak at the Transit Advocates meeting.

  • Fabio Ficano

    Dear Dana,
    yes, we are very much interested in making a presentation and at the and mae ourselves available to answer ANY question. We were actually ready to answer all the questions during last board meeting, but strangely enough, no one dared to ask.

    Dear Marcotico,
    I get your point and I understand your concerns. I have to admit that until I started working in this industrial sector, it was very hard for me to accept that it takes years of huge investments to make any “traditional” vehicle operational: cars, airplanes, trucks and, why not, trains. Once those are built, it takes even more time to check, test, balance the system and so on. A new bid will not shorten those procedures and cannot, in any possible way, allow the city of Los Angeles, or any other city, to get trains “off the shelf”, like two or three members of the bureaucratic apparatus want us to believe.
    We are biased of course, but we PROUDLY are. Until last December we have been praised by the Authority to be on time, on budget – not once, but several times. There are things we can control, others we cannot: every time the Authority asks us to either implement a new device or change an existing one, we have to project it, install it, test it and balance the system. After all of that the ball goes back to the Authority that has to run its own tests before put the trains in “revenue service”.
    I could letteraly write tens of pages to describe all the procedures that are due before that event. Let me just say that, as we speak, there are 5 trains sitting in the MTA yard waiting to be accepted by the Authority and put in revenue service. The remaining ones are still in Pittsburg, CA wating to be commisioned by the MTA. Here follows a video of the trains:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7bhoRdZkcw

    Internet is an extremely powerful tool that allows people in good and in bed faith to post or find ANYTHING. Because of that, I am actually surprised that you only found out about three delays….there are many more. It’s typical of the transportation industry. Check, if you like, Boeing, Mercedes, Toyota, Airbus, Siemens, BMW, Mitstubishi and so on….you will find delays everywhere…
    You should ask yourself how come, suddendly, all the newspapers are writing agains us. If we have been late for years, why now?….One answer: Proposition “R”. Because of Prop R we decided it was time to bet on the future and give back to the Community that has been very generous to us. Unfortunately, for us, the proposition triggered also the interest of very powerful groups that using their access to the press and to some members of the staff, are very well determined to “recall” and void the contract we rightfully won in 2003.

    So far, only one voice has been heard and it is the one that pushes our competitor’s agenda. I really hope you will give us and give yourselves the opportunity to hear ours.

    Thank you for your attention.

  • Mr. Ficano:

    Fabulous. Provide contact information via our webform and we’ll work on a date for a presentation.

    http://www.socata.net/feedback.htm

  • Maybe I’m missing something. . . but I don’t see why people are attacking Breda. They are a major train manufacturer, from whom MTA has already purchased some light rail trains. With the expanding expo and gold lines, we’re going to need more. Having the factory in L.A. would be a good thing, as well. Why all the worry? For those wary of Breda, do you know of a competing company that you think would be better?

  • David Galvan, I think for some of us the concern is as much process, micro-management and rather dicey political gamesmanship. The attempt to dangle a manufacturing plant as a sweetener for a car order has already played out once in our region (the short-lived Siemens plant in Carson) and by all accounts resulted in a rather sub-standard vehicle (the P-2000s). History seems to be repeating itself.

    That said, if we take at face value the critical comments Metro staff now offer in re Breda order (also known as the P-2550 cars) it begs the question what went wrong and what is being done so the mistakes won’t be repeated in future procurements. After the P-2000 fiasco Metro pledged it would do a better job of oversight with this new order. Obviously that hasn’t worked out all that well, and I almost think a thorough review is needed because it is wrong that we are spending millions and not getting the quality that we should. Some of the fault for that rests with Metro and by god they better get their act together and soon.

    Ok, now that I have ranted I’ll conclude on a lighter note. The delivery of the P-2000 cars dragged out for years. The whole situation was clouded by Yvonne Burke’s meddling and poor oversight, and I often was stymied in trying to get information on what was happening. Getting information from Metro often resembles old style Kremlin analysis based on hints and tea leaves. At a Metro Citizens’ Advisory Council meeting they had a speaker from Metro’s rail dept. and I asked had Metro yet officially taken delivery of the P-2000s. By then we were in year 6 or 7 of this procurement. And after a long pause he basically said “No”. I think it was at least another year before I heard that Metro finally officially accepted the vehicles.

  • NoHo Mom

    For me the issue was as always city hall politics – the mayor more interested in backing his supporters (in the case, a union) rather than considering the needs of all Angelenos as a whole. Too many decisions in LA are made to benefit power players at the expense of the rest of us.

  • Erik

    David Galvan,

    I am greatly concerned in AnsaldoBreda’s ability to deliver the product regardless of where it is built. Of the 8 cars on property at LA Metro, 2 had to be flown, yes FLOWN, in from Italy in order to meet a delivery deadline. And those are part of a 50-car contract that AnsaldoBreda has proven time and time again that they cannot deliver upon to the satisfaction of the operations staff at LA Metro.

    Shall we put ourselves in the hands of a firm that has thus far:

    -Completely failed to deliver any trainsets that can couple to one another in Denmark, NINE years after a $5 billion contract was signed? This has completely SCREWED OVER the ability of the National Railways agency there to deliver service in the short- to mid-term future as they scramble to implement a plan B using their existing fleet from the past 30 years(which luckily they have; what spare fleet does LA Metro have?)

    -Took OVER TEN years to deliver an acceptable light-rail car to Boston, and has now been effectively precluded from ever winning a contract from that city’s transit agency.

    -Required over SIX YEARS to completely elimintate noise and other operations issues from light-rail cars delivered to Oslo, and the cars that were delivered cannot run on all lines due to clearance issues created by the AnsadloBreda design.

    -Delayed by TWO YEARS the start-up of High Speed services from Brussels to Amsterdam thanks to the delay in delivery of trains to the private operator who may have to go into foreclosure because of this.

    There are other stories to tell. In Gothenburg (Trams), Sweden; in Seattle (Dual-Mode Buses), Washington; in Copenhagen (Automated Metro), Denmark…I wish I could find you a success story for AnsaldoBreda, but there just aren’t any.

    Who’s better?

    Siemens with a permanent facility in Sacramento.

    Alstom with a permanent facility in Hornell, NY.

    Kawasaki with a permanent facility in Lincoln, Nebraska.

    CAF with a permanent facility in Elmira, NY.

    Bombardier, based in North America, (in the USA’s largest trading partner Canada) has permanent facilities in both La Pocatière, Quebec and Thunder Bay, Ontario

    In “permanent facility” I mean real purpose-built buildings employing a decent number of skilled workers in fairly-permanent positions.

    Not some fly-by-night assembly operation set up in an old hanger or other unused office-park warehouse where wages are just above minimum-wage (i.e. how Breda “locally-assembled” the Dual-mode buses for Seattle.)

    ANYONE but AnsaldoBreda! Anyone.

  • Fabio Ficano

    Dear Erik,

    Since I believe this blog is one of the most trustworthy of the industry, I think it’s everybody’s duty to be honest and accurate on the topic so I will address all of your concerns in the same order you described them. I will be brief and hope you understand I am not trying to be confrontational, merely accurate:

    1) 19 (nineteen) AnsaldoBreda vehicles have already been accepted and are already property of the MTA. 3 more are going through the commissioning process (already in MTA’s yard) and another 28 are waiting in Pittsburg, CA to be consigned;

    2) We did fly two vehicles to L.A. in order to be punctual. This should be the ultimate evidence that we take our commitment to the Authority very seriously;

    3) Until December 2008, AnsaldoBreda continued to receive great compliments (verbally and in writing) from MTA for our performance and for our rail cars. The entire MTA staff, with the exceptions of two or three individuals, still call us to praise our product;

    4) In Denmark the vehicles were supposed to be delivered in 2006, the amount of the bid was 5 billion DKK and not US dollars and the rail authority already has 8 trains in its possession;

    5) In Boston, I can assure you that our relationship with the MBTA is sound and certainly far from having us banned to participate in future bids. I would welcome documents that prove the contrary;

    6) The Oslo is not an AnsaldoBreda contract. This contract was signed by Firema Locomotive Ansaldo not AnsaldoBreda, different name, different company;
    7) The high Speed train from Brussels to Amsterdam is currently being tested in Czech Republic because the line between Brussels and Amsterdam is not ready. No train could be delivered (AB or other) until the line is completed;

    8) The Gothenburg, Sweden contract will be completed in 2009 and we are currently negotiating with the Customer more option vehicles;

    9) Copenhagen is by far one of the most incredible vehicles in the world. The whole city proudly regards it as an icon of modernity and state of the art. Its performance encouraged other cities, such as Taipei and Honolulu to use the driverless technology as their preferred approach to modern transportation;

    10) You have to look for a success story to find one where the Train sector is concerned, because bad news stories sell better than good news stories. For AnsaldoBreda there are numerous success stories from the cities mentioned above, including LACMTA – online and offline – which we are of course happy to share with those interested;

    11) If you were to commission an unbiased third party to build a competitive matrix of the worlds best train makers, you would find that our performance meets and exceeds that of almost all of these with regards to performance, safety, quality control, innovation and on-time delivery. You would also find that we have no record of safety-related law suits or corruption with public officials – something not all of our competitors can claim;

    12) We, as well as our competitors, have well organized facilities that satisfy our industrial needs. Our intention to build and operate a state of the art facility in Los Angeles County would be the result of a growing need to produce and consign new rail cars in this geographical area. I’m not sure I understand your reasoning for defying entirely the goal of Prop “R”, which is to create new jobs in Los Angeles related to transportation. By giving preference to all of the other rail manufacturers you mention, the money (from LA county taxpayers) will be leaving the county, or state;

    13) We do not have “fly-by-night” facilities. Our skilled colleagues are paid well beyond the average in this industry which in any case pays multipliers of the minimum wage + health benefits + pension plan + above the average vacation time;

    14) Since the buses in Seattle were built something like 25 years ago, when I was barely a teenager, I don’t have all the data handy, but if the board feels that that contract has relevance to today’s options, I would be more than happy to inquire our company’s archive and get that information;

    15) To conclude, I believe your dislike for AnsaldoBreda is based upon partial facts, but of course respect your right to your opinion. In all candor, I hope to change that opinion by providing you the facts necessary for a balanced and educated evaluation of what is best for the people of Los Angeles, not just in the Rail Car Company chosen, but also in the management and development of the entire rail system. I applaud the discussion in this blog (and your contribution) by concerned citizens taking responsible actions to ensure the best long-term outcome for the well being of the community. In that same spirit, I appreciate learning more about your view of the MTA staff: performance, efficiency, customer care, ability to manage the budget and to make wise choices. The tone of your letter makes it clear that you have the utmost respect for their record and their decisions. The reason I’m asking is that we, as a company, are generally very pleased by their professionalism and courtesy based, of course, on our daily interaction with them. I would like to hear from you and learn about your experience on this specific subject.

    Yours faithfully,

    Fabio Ficano

  • Project Navigator, Ltd.(PNL) (http://www.ProjectNavigator.com) is a Los Angeles based environmental engineering and project management firm. We are interested in assisting with the remediation and green redevelopment of the CleanTech Site… The proposed location for AnsaldoBreda’s manufacturing facility.

    AnsaldoBreda (AB) (http://www.ansaldobredainc.com), whose local spokesperson is Mr. Fabio Ficano, has discussed his company’s plans for building a green rail car manufacturing and maintenance facility on the property. PNL supports this vision. PNL has the local skills and capabilities to help AB’s conceptual vision become engineered reality. The site is currently owned by the City of Los Angeles’ Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA). CRA has performed some environmental clean up of the site, and presently operates systems which treat subsurface impacted soils and groundwater.

    For AnsaldoBreda’s plans to be realized in a timely manner, the green manufacturing facility will need to be “integrated” with these remediation systems which take of the subsurface soils. PNL is expert in the green redevelopment (http://www.GreenStructure.com) of Brownfields Sites, and stands ready to assist at the CleanTech Site.

    Further details on the CleanTech site and PNL’s capabilities are at http://www.PRPblog.com/CleanTech

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