MARTA expedites streetcar wheel replacement following safety hold on service

Dec. 12, 2022
MARTA’s decision to place a safety hold on streetcar service follows a comprehensive assessment of known wheel issues that had degraded beyond a point of acceptable risk.

Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) has placed a safety hold on Atlanta Streetcar service through early 2023 and expedited a wheel replacement project in a move the authority calls proactive after a November inspection found wheel degradation had progressed to a point of causing damage to the track.

MARTA previously knew about wheel profile discrepancies going back to the first quarter of 2021 and had gained board approval in October 2021 for a $7.4-million wheel replacement contract with Siemens that called for each of MARTA’s four streetcars to have their wheel assemblies replaced one at a time starting in December 2022. MARTA later rolled replacement of brake assemblies into the project to take advantage of the streetcars being out of service.
The issue stems from the streetcar wheel profile degrading, which MARTA expected and was monitoring. As part of that monitoring, MARTA performed an inspection in late November and found loose and broken bolts at two track switches, as well as chipping along concrete by the switches. A comprehensive analysis found the false flange on the wheels had degraded to the point where it was damaging the track infrastructure, and the decision was made to issue a safety hold on streetcar service.

Daniel Hecht, deputy chief mechanical officer at MARTA, detailed the decision during a presentation to the MARTA Board of Directors on Dec. 8, where he noted the decision came down to safety.

“We want to walk the talk. We are safety oriented in operations. This safety hold demonstrates our priority, and we’re going to do this right,” Hecht said.

The four streetcars will have their wheel assemblies removed and shipped to Siemens’ facility in Sacramento, Calif., where the wheels will be replaced, along with the brake assemblies, and shipped back to MARTA to be installed back on the streetcar vehicles. The streetcars each have 12 wheels on six axles and overhauling a single streetcar’s wheel assemblies takes about eight weeks.

While streetcar service is suspended, MARTA will place four specialty wrapped cutaway vehicles to serve the streetcar route. Hecht told the board the cutaway vehicles will operate on 15-minute headways, with a goal of maintaining ridership on the streetcar loop.

The streetcars are expected to be back in service in early 2023.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.