SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Officials with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency have approved a $1.2 billion contract with Siemens Corp. for new light rail vehicles and an expansion of the current 155 car fleet.

The deal still needs approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle, John Haley, SFMTA Director of Transit, said “the new cars will make this the best light rail system in the country.”

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With ridership expected to grow over the next 25 years, Muni officials said they hope to meet the timetable of the Central Subway project, while also addressing demand for more transit rail services and introducing new standards for performance.

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If the deal is approved, the first new cars could arrive by the end of 2016. All told, 260 light rail vehicles would be built by Siemens, at its assembly plant in Sacramento.

Muni officials said that was part of the appeal in choosing Siemens over CAF, a Spanish company that would have manufactured the vehicles in Spain. The SFMTA said Siemens also has “a proven record of providing reliable, safe, attractive and technically advanced LRVs.” Siemens’ bid was also 20 percent lower in cost.

One of the main points of emphasis in the new design is to improve a component that most negatively impacts rail service: the doors on vehicles. The streamlined door design would feature far fewer parts than the current model, meaning a dramatic reduction in maintenance. There would also be an improved passenger door obstruction detection system and electrically operated steps for higher reliability. The new cars would also have a bit more space to help with overcrowded trains and also be equipped with black boxes to help track accidents.

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Plans are still in the planning process, and Muni officials said they plan on involving the public in the design process.