Trasfer Here For the Future: SEPTA’s New Silverliner V Preview

One of SEPTA’s brand spanking new ROTEM-Hyundai-built (American assembled) Silverliner V cars is on permanent display on Suburban Station’s Track 0 until October 15.  And if you’re bewildered by the LCD screens and strangely placed doors at quarter points there are about 15 SEPTA personnel on the platform prepared to guide you through the boarding and detraining process.  And in a bit of nimble PR, SEPTA prepared a handout to address the inevitable questions about their circumvention of the Buy American contract clause.  Entitled “Silverliner V Philadelphia Regional Manufacturers”, the sheet lists the regional firms that will supply components for the assembly.  Batteries from Cherry Hill, operator seats from Exton; HVAC systems from West Chester! Glass from Trumbauersville?  And true to the Regional Rail’s form, Philadelphia is not well represented in the list of suppliers.

But truly the Silverliner V is a sight to behold.  SEPTA still uses Silverliner IIs that they purchased in the late 1960s.  Not since the 1970s have new trains plied the rails.  New vinyl seats provide peace of mind the old cloth couldn’t.  LCD screens provide directional information, transfer options, and safety advice.  Even better, the LCD screens are supposedly connected to a SEPTA’s central traffic control, enabling real time information to get to passengers.  The doors, which are placed not at the very end of the cars but at quarter points provide greater structural rigidity in case of a collision.  New exterior LED info lights means no more ganking blue “R5 Paoli” signs.  The station stop announcement is detailed and discernible if a little roboty.  And there’s additional space for both bikes and wheelchairs.  But like any bright shiny new public technology handed down to the citizens of Philadelphia, there will have to be some hardening/securing/downscaling of some of the bells and whistles.  For instance, I don’t know how long the LCD screens will last without some sort of plastic coating for easy graffiti removal or general protection.

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7 thoughts on “Trasfer Here For the Future: SEPTA’s New Silverliner V Preview

  1. Have you read the China series at Spacing Wire? Train cars similar to the ones you write about above are mentioned in the most recent essay about Shenzhen. Source: spacing.ca/wire/2008/10/13/shenzhen-chinas-instant-city/.

    Also, I am reading Stephen J. McGovern’s of Haverford College article on the redevelopment of Penn’s waterfront post WWII – interesting maps and plans. Citation: JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY, Vol. 7, No. 4, November 2008 295-326.

  2. Tell me about your understanding of the Buy American Act as it applies to this acquisition, please.

    Full disclosure: This is not snark or a flame, I’m curious. I’m a contracting officer for a large DoD activity in Philadelphia. We buy food, clothing and medical supplies where I work. I have a pretty good understanding of the FAR requirements vis-a-vis Buy American Act and Berry Ammendment. What are SEPTA’s obligations? Where are their regulations? State, Federal, local or some combination as is their funding? Did they meet them? I’ve glanced at newspaper articles, but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert.

  3. Fixed,

    I would say that SEPTA is bound to adhere to the BAA as the Authority receives a combination of State and Federal monies.

    I guess the essential question is this: had SEPTA not decided to award the Silverliner V contract to the relatively untested UTS (Sojitz-Rotem consortium) instead of the bidder who achieved the highest technical rating and staff endorsements, Kawasaki, would there even be a promotional sheet detailing how SEPTA achieved the 60% American-supplied threshold?

    Meaning, this sheet is more an attempt by SEPTA to diffuse any remaining bitterness for awarding a contract to an unknown company without an American footprint (UTS) and doing it an underhanded fashion as Kawasaki alleged. Kawasaki’s suit asserted that SEPTA changed its specifications in the middle of the bidding process to suit UTS.

    So, to answer your question—yeah SEPTA met the conditions of the BAA, like the sheet reminds you. But remember too that most of the actual construction of the cars was done in South Korea and SEPTA made the award in March 2006 and ROTEM moved in to its South Philly location in December. I know that Rotem had produced rolling stock for American railroads prior but never on the East Coast and never for passenger service.

    I don’t know, probably if pressed SEPTA could have claimed hardship by going with Kawasaki and evaded the BAA altogether.

  4. Really like your blog. Thought you might enjoy checking us out at phillygraveyardrabbit.blogspot.com–seems we have somewhat similar interests!

  5. Virtual memory is something that I seem to be unable to ever have enough of. It’s as if megabytes and gigabytes have become a permanent part of my day to day existence. Ever since I bought a Micro SD Card for my NDS flash card, I’ve been constantly vigilant for high memory at low prices. It’s driving me crazy.(Submitted from Nintendo DS running R4i NewPost v2)

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