Muni Derailed by Wall Street?

The Los Angeles Times ran a troubling story saying that many large transit agencies, Muni among them, could face big-time financial problems because of rail car lease deals gone sour in the current economic meltdown. The Times noted that between 1980 and 2003, many transit properties sold their rail cars and leased them back, reaping a one-time cash infusion. But in the case of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, at least, the leases — with the troubled financial services giant AIG — may have to be paid back suddenly, which would require drastic service cuts.

The Times story offered no details on Muni’s situation, and we haven’t seen any specifics on it in local coverage. We do know that Muni sold, then leased back, its LRV fleet around 2003. We also know that at the time some Muni staffers wanted to include the vintage streetcar fleet in the lease, but Market Street Railway objected and the idea never went anywhere.

So, at least the F-line cars won’t be making any unscheduled stops on Wall Street.