San Francisco

BART Electrical Spike Cause Still a Mystery

They still have no idea what's happening. That's the message BART's board got Thursday about a mysterious electrical spike that damaged dozens of cars along the Pittsbug/Bay Point line eight days ago.

But it isn't all bad news.  The transit agency released a new plan Thursday and says they will likely get much needed parts weeks sooner than initially expected.

BART has brought in outside consultants, they’ve extensively inspected the tracks, and even brought in new diagnostic equipment. Despite all of that, they still can’t find what’s causing their power surge problems.

“Let me just start by apologizing to ther riders,” BART Assistant General Manager Paul Oversier said. “There is a lot of moving parts to this… folks just scratch their heads and go what the heck is going on here?”

Speaking before BART’s board of directors, Oversier struggled to pinpoint the cause of the power spikes.

“So the punch line is the investigation is ongoing,” he said.

“It’s very unsatisfying to say, ‘We don’t know why, what’s happening.’ That is not a very satisfying answer to me and I am sure to the people I represent,” BART Director Joel Keller said.

Eight days ago, mysterious surges damaged 50 trains and disrupted train service between the North Concord and Pittsburg/Bay Point stations, forcing commuters onto a shuttle bus to get between the stations.

“There’s delays everywhere,” rider Jessie Gilbert said. “It’s been terrible.”

It has also led to overcrowded cars and delays. To get all trains back in service, BART needs a new supply of tiny, but expensive parts called thyristors. They’ve found a way to get them quicker. Instead of 22 weeks they may now have them in four weeks.

Asked if he thinks this problem could have been prevented, Overseir said, “We won’t know that until we find out what the cause of it is.”

BART also says it never managed to find a cause for a similar power problem that damaged cars between Oakland and San Francisco last month. The problem just went away. That doesn't seem to be happening now.

“That’s a problem,” commuter Shelly Bays said. “That’s a problem, definitely.”

BART also announced Thursday that it has created a new team of six employees to provide fresh eyes to tackle the problem.

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