Of course there’s limited capacity and, as Plesko mentions, the platforms are only so long.
As for the light rail, they’ve also been adding to the capacity. “We feel we don’t have the ability to have more than a standard three-car train in our downtown transit mall otherwise we’re blocking intersections,” Plesko says. Because of this they’re switching to super LRVs that have additional capacity.
“We’re by and large running two-car trains,” Plesko says, “But we’re converting all of our trains to what we call our C car.” He explains, “We’ve got a two-car train that you put together and you can put a middle section in them, an unpowered middle section and it adds about half again as much capacity on a regular car.”
He mentions they’ve been working on the process of installing these Kinkisharyo cars for a while now and they will be fully installed around the end of 2010.
For BART, Johnson states, “In 10 to 15 years we’re going to see another hundred thousand riders on the system.” He stresses, “The current crop of cars that we have in no way is able to carry that passenger load.
“Long term, we’re looking at replacing our entire fleet with cars that can get people on and off faster and can accommodate more riders and are more reliable than the current crop.”
He says they are starting a planning process now to prepare for the next 50 years of ridership. “Over the next 15 years we will start to see new cars come on the system and that will carry us into the next century.”
Meeting the Needs
Car manufacturers are doing what they can to help meet the needs of agencies by maximizing passenger space, while ensuring necessary equipment space.
Alstom’s AGV offers a wide width of 2.75 meters inside cars to offer passengers more comfort and ensuring accessibility for people with reduced mobility. With closed gaps and wide corridors between the cars, it allows easy circulation through the cars.
A modular design not only allows for easy upgrades, it makes a train that can be customized for the agency’s particular needs, such as more or less space for bicycles or work spaces.
“Sometimes the only way to go is up,” said Paul Larouche, director of product planning for Bombardier Transportation, North America. “When Toronto’s GO Transit found that its single-level commuter coaches were becoming filled to capacity, and that its station platforms could not accommodate longer train consists, GO worked with railcar builder Can Car (since acquired by Bombardier) to develop a unique vehicle known today as the Bombardier BiLevel car.” In service since 1978, today more than 950 BiLevel cars are in operation at, on order with, transit authorities in 13 cities across Canada and the United States.
“NJ TRANSIT faced similar challenges, as well as the particular infrastructure constraints of the Northeast Corridor,” continued Larouche. “Together we developed a multi-level vehicle that is compatible with all of NJT’s existing rolling stock and can operate anywhere on the NJT system, including through the Northeast Corridor Hudson River tunnels.”
Both car types feature upper and lower seating levels, as well as a spacious intermediate level at each end of the car for wheelchairs, bicycles or luggage, for example. “But increasing capacity does not have to mean sacrificing passenger comfort,” Larouche pointed out. “For example, both the BiLevel car and the multi-level vehicle offer a two-by-two seating configuration that eliminates the middle seat found on many single-level vehicles.”
Talking with Plesko at DART, they are seeing another problem from the increased ridership, overcapacity at the park-and-ride lots. “We’ve had fairly significant problems with overcapacity, more people are wanting to use the park-and-ride lots,” he says. One example is at the Glenn Heights lot. “It’s a little over 300 spaces. We’re adding an additional 200 spaces so we’ll have more than 500 and that should prevent people from spilling over into the neighborhood streets, which was happening before.”