I don't think anyone could have initially complained when BART announced a “Buy American” policy for bids on their new fleet of future rail cars. But as disappointed as we all were to find out this futuristic fleet didn't include hover trains with robot conductors, I think we were even more disappointed to find out that the “Buy American” policy was really just rhetoric. Granted, our nation's crumbling industrial capacity and our general cultural disdain for public transportation systems are really to blame; there simply just aren't any US companies that currently build rail cars.
So with no US companies to step up, BART instead took bids from three foreign companies who each committed to meeting the guidelines of their “Buy American” policy. Turns out that this policy only really requires that just 60% of the materials used in the new BART fleet be manufactured in the United States. On top of that, every single one of the foreign bidders plans to do their American manufacturing on the East Coast, ensuring that virtually none of the $2.5 billion dollars will be spent creating jobs in California.
Last month, BART officials declared their findings after an extensive study of each of the three bids. South Korean Rotem (a Hyundai subsidiary) was by far the least favored. Instead, it came down to a pretty close finish between French Canadian Bombardier and France's Alstom. On April 23rd, BART declared their support for Bombardier (which for obvious reasons, they like to refer to as a “North American” company instead of just calling them Canadian), which BART will likely vote in as the winner at a public meeting tomorrow morning at 9am (yeah, that's in 12 hours, cause I know you're totes gonna read this tonight and change your morning plans).
Critics are crying foul because the “North America” Bombadier has apparently struggled to come up with a BART plan that will use just 66% US sourced parts. Also, Chicago's Bombadier built fleet of rail cars were apparently made with defective Chinese parts that recently forced replacements in all 775 of Chicago's trains and a complete recall and loss of 54 of those trains.
By now, you've probably heard that really annoying, cheesy radio ad advocating for a “BART for America”. These ads are being funded by interests supporting the Alstom bid, who apprently submitted a plan to use 95% of US sourced materials for only about 12% more cost than Bombardier's bid, which still below the total project price tag of $2.5 billion. Unions are backing the last ditch effort to push BART towards the Alstom bid, and if you care enough to make a fuss and maybe create a few more manufacturing jobs in South Carolina or whatever, you too can show to the BART Board of Directors Hearing at 9am tomorrow morning and yell at people who aren't listening and have already made up their mind!
Tomorrow, May 10th @ 9am: BART Board Room in Kaiser Center, 20th Street Mall, Third Floor, 344 20th St., Oakland, CA.