In 2010, TriMet was awarded a $4.2 million federal grant to install new energy storage units on 20 of its light rail MAX vehicles, which capture and store nearly all of the energy generated by the braking systems.
Other major metropolitan systems in North America are using new technology to save maintenance costs no matter the propulstion system. Toronto and Chicago are employing a Bombardier product called Orbiflo, a train-to-wayside solution designed to dramatically reduce the time needed to identify, and hence fix, a problem.
Typically, a light rail vehicle (LRV) has a monitoring system for the operator. Orbiflo also connects with the wayside, so every time the car passes the station, or goes into the shop, the maintenance crew can begin working on a solution. That results in less labor time, less down time for the cars, and greater efficiency for customers.
Bombardier’s Wesling said Chicago will tie the system not just to metro trains, but also to its bus system.
Lower maintenance cost is also a benefit of another new Bombardier development, the permanent magnet motors. While typical motors are cooled by having air blown through them, the PMMs are completely enclosed and air is blown over them. When no air is blown through, neither is debris, preventing the need to take the motor off the car, clean it and replace bearings. Wesling said PMMs can last almost double the 6-7 years a traditional motor goes between cleanings.
Naturally these modern technologies have a greater up-front cost that can be offputting to some transit authorities and municipalities. Wesling said in Japan and Europe, where conserving energy is emphasized far more, long-term savings are given more consideration than in the United States.
“In the U.S., a customer writes a spec and the low price wins the order,” Wesling said. “One of the jobs I have is to convince the customer to put this into the specs.”
As new CFOs and innovative maintenance and energy-saving solutions begin to appear more frequently around the United States, it’s clear some of those customers are listening.