ART buses are a disaster; Keller grounds fleet; project on hold

November 1, 2018

- Brakes don't work

 

- Bolts flying off doors

 

- Rear doors opening by themselves

 

- Air conditioning gone haywire

 

The city has found massive new problems with the electric buses for the $130 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project, and Mayor Tim Keller said Thursday that those buses have been grounded and will have to be inspected and fixed before the project can become operational.

 

 

Those problems include bolts flying off doors, doors opening by themselves when the buses are moving, air conditioning systems that don't work and brakes that aren't working.

 

And, the Chinese company that is building the buses, BYD, still hasn't delivered all of the 22 buses that were due to the city last year, and the company still hasn't provided the extra charging stations that are needed because the buses don't have the required range on a full battery charge, Keller said in providing an update on the ART project.

 

Keller also said that the city is actively looking at potential alternative bus options for the ART fleet should this become necessary.

 

“We simply can’t allow the buses to run with the safety issues that our drivers and maintenance teams encountered,” Keller said. “The most important thing is the safety of the public and these buses do not appear to be safe at any speed. The people of Albuquerque have been through too much with this project, we will not let them be taken advantage of by this company and risk getting hurt. We’re going to make sure that every bus we have is thoroughly examined from top to bottom and all safety issues are addressed.”

 

Here's how Transit Director Bernie Toon described the problems with the 60-foot-long articulated buses:

 

“What we found during the first week was that buses had air conditioning outages and door malfunctions. We were communicating these issues to BYD when bolts began to fall off doors, and rear doors would open during bus operation without any action by the driver. As a result, our mechanics started to look for the causes of these problems and began identifying new problems.”

 

Toon added that one of the biggest issues was discovered in early October. The center and rear brakes had zero air pressure, yet the bus was able to move. This should never happen. It means that the center and rear axle brakes were not working – the buses were relying on their front brakes alone. This is a fleet-wide issue, and poses significant safety concerns that have to be resolved by BYD before any member of the public rides on these buses.

 

Here's the full news release on the issue from Keller's office:

 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Mayor Tim Keller provided an update on the status of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project today, after uncovering significant safety issues with the buses. When Mayor Keller took office, he announced three major problems with the project including issues with construction along the corridor, delays and uncertainty with federal funding, and mechanical problems with the handful of buses that had arrived.

 

The administration improved and finished construction along the corridor and secured the federal funding, and has been working with the bus vender, Build Your Dreams (BYD), on resolving major issues with bus performance, and recently uncovered significant safety concerns with the buses. As the City began driver training with the buses along the corridor, major issues came to light ranging from doors opening when they shouldn’t to brakes not functioning properly. Because of these serious safety issues, Mayor Tim Keller announced the need for a complete inspection of all bus operating systems.

 

“We simply can’t allow the buses to run with the safety issues that our drivers and maintenance teams encountered,” stated Mayor Tim Keller. “The most important thing is the safety of the public and these buses do not appear to be safe at any speed. The people of Albuquerque have been through too much with this project, we will not let them be taken advantage of by this company and risk getting hurt. We’re going to make sure that every bus we have is thoroughly examined from top to bottom and all safety issues are addressed.”

 

When the Transit Department began driver training on July 23, it had three goals. First, to train drivers in operating and docking the ART buses; second, to get regular drivers used to sharing the road with ART buses in the corridor; and third, to see how the buses would perform.

 

“What we found during the first week was that buses had air conditioning outages and door malfunctions,” said Bernie Toon, Transit Director. “We were communicating these issues to BYD when bolts began to fall off doors, and rear doors would open during bus operation without any action by the driver. As a result, our mechanics started to look for the causes of these problems and began identifying new problems.”

 

One of the biggest issues was discovered in early October. The center and rear brakes had zero air pressure, yet the bus was able to move. This should never happen. It means that the center and rear axle brakes were not working – the buses were relying on their front brakes alone. This is a fleet-wide issue, and poses significant safety concerns that have to be resolved by BYD before any member of the public rides on these buses.

 

Mayor Keller and Director Toon also noted that BYD has failed to perform as promised on the construction of supplementary charging stations per their agreement with the City some months ago. Additionally, BYD’s is now a year behind on its commitment to deliver all of buses. This continued lack of performance by BYD – and the adverse safety issues - have caused the City to ground the fleet. The City is currently reassessing that schedule, and path forward in light of these developments, and is expected to share further details after the inspection process in November.

 

The City is also actively looking at potential alternative bus options for the ART fleet should this become necessary.

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