Fire systems repaired in 112 MTA buses

February 27, 2004|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Transit Administration pulled more than 100 buses off the street this month when the agency found they had malfunctioning fire-suppression equipment, a spokesman said yesterday.

Forty-one buses were fixed within a day and are back in service, said MTA spokesman Richard Scher. Most of the remaining buses needed parts from the manufacturer but were expected to be back in service today.

Scher said the MTA investigated the fleet after an engine fire on a bus Feb. 10. Though no passengers were injured, the driver reported that the fire-suppression system -- which sprinkles a dry white powder to help extinguish fires -- never activated. The MTA determined the system had a missing fuse and checked the rest of its buses for similar problems.

The agency has 762 buses in its fleet, but only the 406 buses purchased since 1994 have the fire-suppression equipment. In the 112 buses with malfunctioning systems, problems ranged from electrical problems to cases where the white powder canisters didn't open. The agency still has to inspect 74 buses.

The MTA has been using shuttle buses to avoid service interruptions, and Scher said the agency hasn't received any complaints.

Scher said the MTA conducted its investigation in part because of lessons learned two years ago, when wheels fell off agency buses 18 times during a 10-month period. One high-ranking MTA administrator resigned amid criticism that she failed to address the malfunctions quickly.

"We did this fleetwide evaluation because ... this agency has learned some hard lessons and is extremely conscious on the need to take immediate action to address any incidents," Scher said.

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