Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Whatever happened to the streetcar that visited Cincinnati in 2010?

Remember when this streetcar visited Fountain Square?:

Here is its story:

In February 2006, Škoda Transportation established an "exclusive technology transfer agreement" with Oregon Iron Works (OIW) to build streetcars meeting "Buy America" rules, and the two companies jointly prepared a detailed OIW submission when the city of Portland (owner of the Portland Streetcar system) issued a request for proposals in mid-2006 to build one new streetcar for the Portland Streetcar. In January 2007, OIW won a contract from Portland to build the prototype streetcar, to the Škoda design, and reported that it had established a new subsidiary, United Streetcar LLC, to perform the work.[24]

The United Streetcar prototype, number 015 in the Portland Streetcar fleet, was delivered on May 15, 2009,[19] but did not enter service until 2012. The car is model 10T, the same as Škoda-built cars 001-007, but features a slightly modified end design. Although the differences are relatively minor, car 015 is considered to be model variant 10T3, whereas cars 001-005 were 10T0 and cars 006-007 were 10T2.[25] Car 015, which carries a red, white and blue paint scheme and large "Made in USA" lettering along the sides, was presented to the public in a July 1, 2009 ceremony, at which Secretary Ray LaHood was the featured speaker.[26]

Car 015's entry into service was delayed by more than three years, not finally occurring until September 2012.[27] The main reason for the delay was a 2010 decision to replace its propulsion-control system – the electronic equipment which controls and coordinates the operation of the car's motors and other key operating components – with equipment made by Rockwell Automation, ofMilwaukeeWisconsin.[28] Although the car was complete and operable in mid-2009, it had yet to undertake the extensive "acceptance testing" needed to certify that it was safe for passenger service and would run reliably. Car 015's propulsion control system was made by Škoda, whereas all 10 earlier Portland streetcars—even the seven cars built by Škoda—had control systems supplied by Elin EBG, an Austrian company (and only installed by Škoda).[29]

 Acceptance testing began in late summer 2009, but revealed (unspecified) problems, and Škoda and Portland Streetcar were unable to reach agreement on resolving them.[29] This issue, together with a desire by PS, United Streetcar and others to increase further the U.S. content of streetcars built by United Streetcar, led to discussions between Rockwell Automation and the various interested parties in Portland on the possibility and feasibility of Rockwell designing a control system for the United Streetcar design.[29] In April 2010, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved a $2.4-million grant, to be matched by $600,000 in local money, to fund the replacement of car 015's control equipment with new equipment to be designed by Rockwell Automation.[30][31][32] Under FTA rules, the grant was made to TriMet (the region's primary transit agency), but TriMet only acted as intermediary in this instance, and it passed the funds along to the Portland Streetcar system's owner, the city of Portland, who administered the contract with Rockwell and the now-amended contract with Oregon Iron Works/United Streetcar. The change was expected to increase the overall U.S. content of the car from around 70% to around 90%,[32] and this helped win the support of federal officials to approve the $2.4 million in "research funds" needed to allow project to proceed.[30] 

Prototype streetcar 015 was transported back to the OIW factory, in Portland's southeast suburbs, in May 2010,[28] and it returned on April 30, 2012, now fitted with the experimental Rockwell propulsion system.[33] It began acceptance testing on the Portland Streetcar tracks in June[34] and was certified for service on September 21, 2012.[27] It entered passenger service the following day, September 22, 2012, the opening day of the new eastside line (CL Line).[21]

Meanwhile, the city has also purchased an additional five streetcars for the eastside expansion. A contract for these was let to United Streetcar in August 2009 and was originally for six cars.[35] However, in light of Portland's dissatisfaction with the Škoda propulsion control system, the city decided in 2010 to modify the OIW/United Streetcar contract for these cars, to substitute equipment from Elin for the originally planned Škoda equipment.[28][36] Fabrication of the streetcars had yet to begin at the time of that decision, but the change was substantial enough that delivery was delayed as a result, and the first cars are now not projected to be delivered until December 2012.[37] 

These five cars were not fitted with the Rockwell equipment, because the Rockwell system was still being designed at the time that production was beginning on the additional cars. If the city had waited for it to be completed, installed and thoroughly tested in car 015 before installing it in the additional cars, doing so would delay the completion of those cars too much, city officials indicated. These cars are United Streetcar model "100", instead of 10T3.[38] In 2011, production problems raised the cost of manufacturing of these cars, and as a result, the city agreed to reduce the number of cars on order from six to five.[36] These cars have been assigned numbers 021–025 in the Portland Streetcar fleet.[33] The first car (021) was delivered in January 2013 and entered service on June 11, 2013.