Metrolink Set to Get Zero-Emission Rail Vehicles, Tier 4 Locomotives

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
(Photograph Courtesy of Metrolink)

(Photograph Courtesy of Metrolink)

Southern California’s Metrolink on Feb. 21 reported that it will receive funds from the Carl Moyer Program* to procure two zero-emission rail vehicles. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) Governing Board committed to supporting the 538-route mile regional/commuter rail system by approving the funds, which are not to exceed $59.3 million. The Board also approved up to $87.4 million from the South Coast AQMD contingency grant award list to replace 12 earlier-generation Metrolink locomotives with lower-emission Tier 4 units.

(Courtesy of Metrolink)

Metrolink in 2017 began operating EMD F125 Tier 4 locomotives (download details below), which meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s “strictest standards,” it said, and significantly reduce smog-forming emissions and particulate matter. “South Coast AQMD was instrumental in bringing Tier 4 technology to Southern California,” contributing $110 million in grant funds between 2013 and 2017 to help Metrolink purchase its existing fleet of 40 Tier 4 locomotives, valued at $279.765 million, reported the regional/commuter rail agency, which serves as a link between Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, and Riverside counties (see map above). According to Metrolink, the additional 12 Tier 4 locomotives will replace older MP36PH Tier 2 models that are still in service.

The new funding from South Coast AQMD will also allow Metrolink “to pioneer” sustainable technology, according to the regional/commuter rail agency, which will solicit manufacturer proposals for two zero-emissions rail vehicles. This pilot program, it said, comes on the heels of a Zero Emission Technical Analysis (download below) that was presented to the Metrolink Board of Directors in 2023 and “will help determine the effectiveness of a broader transition to zero-emissions technology.”

A key goal of the analysis—released last June by Hatch LTK, STV Inc., and Cambridge Systematics, Inc.—was to advance planning for a zero-emissions pilot that is included as part of the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) Metrolink Antelope Valley Line Capital and Service Improvements Project grant received in 2020. Metrolink, in partnership with its member agency, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), was awarded $10 million in Network Integration funding to assess the feasibility of a rail multiple unit (RMU) and zero-emissions propulsion service through a pilot project on the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line, according to the analysis authors. The line connects riders along a 76-mile corridor from Lancaster in North Los Angeles County to Los Angeles Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. The table below summarizes the findings in a condensed form to compare the available options; the evaluations are performed according to the color codes, with green, yellow, orange, and red showing sequentially the degree of the advantage (green and yellow colors mean superior to the diesel-electric propulsion, and red and orange colors mean inferior to the diesel-electric propulsion).

(Courtesy of Metrolink)

“Metrolink and South Coast AQMD have long shared a common vision for sustainability in public transportation,” Metrolink Board Chair and South Coast AQMD Governing Board Member Larry McCallon said. “Past funding ushered in a new era of environmentally conscious operations with the arrival of Metrolink’s first Tier 4 locomotive in 2017, and both agencies continue to lead from the front in pursuit of an even greener future.”

“We continue to explore emerging technologies that will help us reduce our environmental footprint because it’s the right thing to do,” Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle said. “In 2012, we pushed for Tier 4 locomotives because we knew the impact that reducing our emissions would have on the communities we serve. Ten years later, we became the first passenger rail system in the nation to power our entire locomotive fleet with renewable fuel. We’re honored to once again have the support of South Coast AQMD as we pursue lower- and zero-emission alternatives.”

* South Coast AQMD’s Carl Moyer Program provides grant funding for engines, vehicles and other equipment that go beyond regulatory requirements to reduce emissions, according to Metrolink, which in 2018 received South Coast AQMD’s Model Community Achievement Award for its purchase of the original 40 Tier 4 locomotives.

In related development, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on Feb. 14 reported exercising an option with Stadler for six additional zero-emission HFC (hydrogen fuel cell) FLIRT H2 trainsets, valued at $127 million.

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