Which types of NJ Transit trains are the most likely to leave you stranded? Read the score card. – nj.com

A NJ Transit train disabled by a fire at the Princeton Junction in West Windsor in this 2018 file photo.Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for
NJ Transit riders who get on board a multilevel rail car have the best chance of making it to and from work without a breakdown.
Not surprising is the revelation that commuters riding the Arrow III electric powered trains, that date back to the era of leisure suits and disco music, have the highest chance of being delayed or having their train canceled because of a mechanical failure.
How trouble prone are the individual rail cars and locomotives in NJ Transit’s fleet and how many miles do they roll before a problem takes them out of service?
That measurement is called “mean distance between failures,” or how many miles individual types of trains and the rail fleet travel between breakdowns. In this case, the higher the number, the more reliable the equipment is.
After several months of requests and questions from NJ Transit’s Board of Directors Vice Chairman Cedrick Fulton about which trains types breakdown the most, NJ Transit publicized September 2021 figures late last month.
“It is helpful to separate the equipment type, it gives greater clarity,” Fulton said. “The statistics speak to the challenge with older equipment.”
That information arrived as canceled trains due to equipment breakdowns increased to 106 in October from 87 in September.
Which trains are the most breakdown prone and which are the most reliable is essential information for commuters, said Len Resto, New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers president and a Morris & Essex rail line rider.
“It shows how urgent it is to replace aging equipment and it is also a window into how effective the Meadowlands Maintenance Complex (MMC) is (keeping old trains running),” he said. “Riders may look at this and realize if they ride the Arrows, for example, they might select another method, given how often they seem to breakdown.”
NEC train #3126, the 7:35 AM departure from New Brunswick, is cancelled due to mechanical issues. Please take train #3712, the 7:43 AM departure from New Brunswick.
The multi-level rail car “trailers” that are pulled by a locomotive have the most impressive statistics, rolling 967,471 miles between breakdowns in September, the latest statistics that were available.
Since their introduction in 2006 multi-level cars have become the backbone of NJ Transit rail car fleet as the agency has been transitioning away from single level rail cars that carry less people.
The first generation of multi-levels entered service in 2006. They’ll reach age 20 in five years and are scheduled to get a midlife overhaul in the next year or two under an updated fleet plan, Jim Smith, an NJ Transit spokesman, said in an earlier interview.
A railcar is only as good as the locomotive pulling it. None of NJ Transit’s locomotives broke out of the five digit mark.
The newest and most versatile ALP 45 DP dual mode locomotive fleet didn’t crack 20,000 miles, rolling 19,746 between breakdowns in September.
The backbone of the electrified fleet, the ALP 46 electric locomotives, ran an average of 26,490 miles between failures, the best of four types of locomotives on the railroad.
The original ALP 46 locomotives were built between 2001 and 2002 and are scheduled to be rebuilt at age 24. The next generation ALP46A engines were built between 2007 and 2009 and will be overhauled at age 12, said Jim Smith, and NJ Transit spokesman.
Overhauls extend the service life of locomotives and save the cost of buying new ones.
MOBO train #6241, the 12:29 PM from PSNY, is cancelled due to equipment availability resulting from mechanical issues. Please take train #6245, the 1:29 PM from PSNY or train #6627, the 12:46 PM from PSNY and transfer at Newark Broad Street for service to MSU.
The PL42 traveled 13,646 miles between breakdowns. Most of the PL42 fleet, built between 2004 and 2006, will be retired and replaced by ALP 45 dual modes after NJ Transit officials determined in July 2020 it would cost more money to rebuild them than to replace them.
In April, the first of 26 ALP 45 DP dual mode locomotives to replace them were delivered.
The PL42′s barely did better than the two oldest types of locomotives in the fleet, the GP40P’s which were built in the 1960′s, rebuilt in the 1990′s and the 2 lone F40PHCat-2 locomotives built in the early 1980′s. Those locomotives traveled 13,486 miles between breakdowns.
The reason is the demand and ability for each locomotive to provide Head End Power for lights, heating or air conditioning to the train, Smith said. The GP40′s primarily operate with the Comet rail cars, which have a lower demand for HEP allowing the locomotive to complete its trip if a mechanical issue arises.
The PL42 propulsion system prioritizes providing HEP to the train, Smith said. The locomotive will reduce propulsion in order to supply the requested level of HEP which affecting its ability to complete a trip under similar circumstances, affecting the MDBF, Smith said.
Rail cars that aren’t self propelled have fewer things that can go wrong with them and ran the longest between breakdowns.
After the high performing multi level cars, the Comet series single level cars have the second best record at 342,500 miles between breakdowns. The newest are Comet V’s delivered between 2002 and 2004, followed by the Comet IV cars built in 1996. After the Arrows, the Comet IVs are the next cars scheduled for retirement, Smith said.
The Comet II cars were built in 1982 to 1983 and rebuilt between 1999 and 2003.
Multilevel cab cars equipped with locomotive controls in them rolled up 87,792 miles, followed by Comet cab cars with 62,425 miles between breakdowns. Cab cars are more complicated because they have the same equipment as a locomotive cab has.
At the bottom are the Arrow III cars, that travel 10,185 miles between breakdowns. These 43-year-old trains are scheduled to be replaced by 113 self-propelled multilevel cars starting in 2023, Smith said.
“The main drivers (of failure numbers) are the oldest vehicles in the fleet, the Arrows and the GP 40′s, at 43 and 53 years old,” said James Sincaglia, NJ Transit’s acting rail operations general manager.
That report by equipment type maybe short lived. The chart isn’t included in the materials for the board’s Nov. 30 operations and customer service committee meeting, which were sent publicly on Nov. 24.
“The chart should be part of every Board/Operations (committee) meeting because it is important information,” Resto said.
In its place is a projection how new equipment could increase the distance the rail fleet travels between breakdowns.
The 113 multi-level power cars and overhauled electric locomotives could increase the miles between breakdowns to 100,000 miles by 2024 for the rail fleet. New unpowered multi-level III cars replacing the oldest single level Comet rail cars are projected to push fleet reliability numbers to 120,000 miles by 2033.
“We expect Mean Distance Between Failures to be exponentially higher,” Sincaglia said.
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Larry Higgs may be reached at [email protected].
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