Advances in rail making it a better piece of a smart mobility package

Wed, 2014-11-12 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

A recent transportation summit found that the solution to transportation problems can’t be just one solution. Some cities are finding that rail is a key part of an overall package, and Council Associate Partner Siemens is working to make it even more viable.

The Fix My Commute summit, sponsored by the Washington Post, brought together Vice President Joe Biden and federal transportation officials, mayors from a range of cities in 25 states, and innovators from companies including Siemens, Google, Tesla, Ford, Uber and Waze.

Two trends are changing the future of transit
Summit panelists found cities are having to adapt to two key trends. First, as populations grow faster than funding and infrastructure, cities have to always think in terms of overall mobility.

One bicycle program or subway line isn’t going to fix transportation by itself. Cities have to think in terms of how to move the maximum number of people and amount of goods at the lowest financial and environmental cost. To do that, all the elements have to work together.

The second trend gives cities more freedom to accomplish that goal. More millennials are flocking to cities and they aren’t attached to the old ways of doing things.

Rail can be part of the solution
During the summit, Siemens presented information about the success of its rail projects across the country.

Portland, Ore., is one key success story; It has used light rail for more than 20 years. The next phase begins next fall with new vehicles that increase passenger comfort and safety. In addition to providing more foot room and better wheelchair access, the new vehicles include ventilation systems that automatically adapt to the number of people in them.

Siemens also redesigned vehicles for the Twin Cities where winters are harsh and salt is used to keep roadways clear. The new vehicles feature stainless steel components that won’t rust and more rugged hydraulic lines.

Finally, Siemens talked about its work in Florida, building one of the fastest and first privately owned rail lines in the United States. When completed, the All Aboard Florida line will take passengers between Miami and Orlando at up to 125 miles per hour.

More on rail…
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Lessons from London: Making your transit system (almost) pay for itself