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3 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND noted at the outset that although the sample size is too small to allow any meaningful statistical analysis, the information Over the last 25 years there has been a revival in light rail tran- provided by the participants is useful nevertheless. sit (LRT) which has resulted in the development of many new systems. Of the 20 existing light rail systems, 15 have been Ideally, every agency is doing the optimal amount of built or substantially revitalized since 1980. Another 36 U.S. maintenance necessary. This would allow the best "apples- cities are either planning or currently implementing light rail to-apples" comparison. Actually, budgetary pressures often lines. System maintenance plays a large role in keeping oper- dictate that maintenance be deferred. These pressures, and ating costs low. Adequate staffing for light rail vehicle (LRV) others like it, cannot be extracted from the data available. fleet maintenance, wayside maintenance [maintenance of way (MOW)], and facilities and equipment maintenance is criti- cal in ensuring a cost-effective system. STUDY APPROACH An ongoing challenge for all agencies is determining This synthesis documents LRT maintenance staffing levels maintenance staffing levels. It is particularly so for agencies and the factors important in their development. In addition to with no rail maintenance history. In spite of 25 years of LRT this introduction, it is divided into four chapters. Chapter two system development, there is a lack of information on the updates and expands on the operating characteristics of U.S. subject. A comparative survey of existing LRT systems in light rail systems, as reported in the FTA's National Transit this synthesis may help maintenance managers understand Database (NTD). This review adds information that may the variables affecting maintenance staffing. affect the level of maintenance. The information includes characteristics of LRVs in use, characteristics of the operat- ing environment and guideway design, number and type of STUDY PURPOSE AND CONSTRAINTS stations, and number of auxiliary facilities. It is intended to The purpose of this synthesis is to document light rail main- be an overview of the factors affecting maintenance staffing. tenance staffing practices to guide existing and emerging LRT systems. Its objective is to provide information on Chapter three discusses the results of a questionnaire sent industry maintenance staffing practices to three groups. The to each LRT system. The questionnaire addresses such top- first group is the managers of LRT maintenance functions, so ics as the system's basic maintenance philosophy; its prac- that they can compare their staff levels with others in the tice regarding contracted maintenance; labor issues; and industry. The second group is those involved in a new light vehicle, wayside, and facilities maintenance issues. The dis- rail start-up. Although they may also use other staffing rec- cussion of questionnaire responses provides a synopsis of ommendations, they would be able to check those recom- industry practices. mendations against industry practices. The third group com- prises system directors, executives, or board members, who Chapter four presents in detail how four light rail agencies need to understand how the industry accomplishes system maintain their systems, why certain approaches are imple- maintenance. Proposed staffing policies, requests for addi- mented, and what staff levels are used. The latter information tional staff, or pending reductions in staff levels could then includes the ratio of system maintainers to managers by main- be made with better understanding of maintenance practices. tenance function and the labor input to maintain one LRV or 1 mi of track. Available staff information from other agencies This synthesis relied on responses to surveys and ques- is included. tionnaires sent to individuals working in LRT maintenance. The response rate was 50%. The four agencies visited for the Chapter five presents conclusions drawn from the infor- case studies were also very helpful. However, it should be mation contained in the previous sections.