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Cleanest Diesel Locomotives to Join Southern California Commuter Rail Fleet

Forty so-called Tier 4 locomotives, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designation requiring a dramatic reduction in particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions, will be joining Metrolink's fleet covering 512 track miles in six counties.
July 20, 2016, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The Metrolink commuter railroad on Monday unveiled the first of 40 clean-air locomotives that will replace its aging fleet of diesel engines in an effort to reduce harmful exhaust emissions across the region," reports Dan Weikel for the Los Angeles Times.

 Officials say three will go into operation this year. The rest will be phased in by 2018.

Metrolink was the first to purchase the cleaner locomotives in 2012 so it is only fitting that they are the first to receive them. It is also appropriate that they debut in Los Angeles as the city suffered the worst ozone pollution in the United States last year.

Photo Credit: Metrolink

The new locomotives, built by Illinois-based Electro-Motive Diesel, will do more for Metrolink than just produce less pollution.

"This is quite a piece of equipment,” said Art Leahy, Metrolink’s chief executive, during ceremonies at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. “We will get more horsepower, less fuel consumption and lower emissions.”

"Tier 4 locomotives are compliant with the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards and will reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide [NOx] emissions by up to 85 percent," according to Metrolink. See Tier 4 fact sheet [PDF].

"According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, each locomotive will emit up to 12 fewer tons of nitrogen oxide a year while the reduction in particulates will be about a third of a ton," adds Weikel.

Last year, the federal government required that rebuilt locomotives and new engines purchased by passenger and freight railroads must reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 80% and particulates by 90%.

Transitioning to cleaner fleets is vital to reaching our clean air goals,” said Wayne Nastri, acting executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which has committed $111 million to purchase the Tier 4 engines. 

That would account for 40 percent of the $280 million tab for the 40 locomotives, or $7 million per locomotive.

Funds included $34.66 million from the air district's Carl Moyer Program.  

 Funding was also secured from:

  • Federal Transit Administration, 
  • California Department of Transportation, 
  • California High Speed Rail Authority and 
  • Metrolink member agencies in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

Metrolink also serves northern San Diego County.

Losing Riders

Weikel adds that the clean locomotives "are part of a broader program to improve customer service." Unlike it's much smaller, but much older, northern California counterpart, Caltrain, which has increased ridership for six consecutive years, Metrolink has lost riders since a devastating, head-on crash with a Union Pacific train in Chatsworth in September 2008 that left 25 dead. The Metrolink engineer had been found to be texting at the time.

According to Wikipedia, ridership in the last quarter of 2015 was 40,500, eighth highest in the nation after Caltrain.

Hat tip to Susan Frank, Better World Group.

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Published on Monday, July 18, 2016 in Los Angeles Times
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