Looking Ahead to 2014

Duluth, Minn

Dennis Jensen

General manager, Duluth Transit Authority

In April, the Duluth Transit Authority (DTA) will begin construction activity on a new intermodal transportation center located in the heart of downtown. The new transit center has been in the planning process for more than 10 years and became a reality in 2009 when the DTA was awarded a $16 million FTA capital grant as partial funding of the project. The total project budget is set at $28.5 million and will be a public/private partnership with the balance of the funding coming from the DTA, state of Minnesota bonding and private investment.

The new multimodal transportation center will resolve several longstanding issues in downtown Duluth affecting automobile traffic, bus operations, the safety and security of pedestrians and the DTA’s 12,000 daily passengers. The new facility will be located one block off of Superior Street, the main downtown corridor, at the convergence of the city’s renowned skywalk system. This is a network of elevated walkways providing all-weather pedestrian access to major business, retail and hospitality facilities throughout the downtown area.

The new terminal will include a passenger lobby with restrooms, ticket counters and seating. The building will include eight covered loading bays for DTA buses as well as accommodations for Jefferson Lines intercity bus services, other regional bus services, taxi, ride-share and vanpool parking, electric vehicle charging stations, secure bicycle storage, a drive-thru banking station, plus 380 public parking spaces and a sub-station staffed by the Duluth Police Department. The facility will also be one block from the historic St. Louis County Depot, which will serve as the terminal for the planned Northern Lights commuter rail service between Duluth and the Twin Cities.

In addition to resolving congestion and parking issues in the downtown area, the project is planned as the solution to pedestrian connectivity issues between the downtown commercial district and the city’s popular Lake Superior tourist area. The completion of the Interstate 35 corridor through Duluth in the early 90’s restricted pedestrian access between the downtown and the waterfront area. An important component of the DTA’s construction project includes the rebuilding of the “Northwest Passage,” the major skywalk link spanning Interstate 35 that will connect directly from the DTA’s new intermodal center to the waterfront convention center. Bicycles will also be accommodated on this section of the skywalk system.

The DTA has also initiated a traffic signal preemption project for the downtown area. The relocation of the DTA’s transfer hub will require the re-routing of buses and result in significant changes to downtown traffic patterns. This $810,000 project will upgrade traffic signals along the Superior Street corridor that will be coordinated with police, fire, emergency vehicles and DTA buses. Buses departing the new intermodal terminal will be staged by traffic control signals that will be timed to allow the buses to move quickly through the downtown area. The DTA is projecting a completion date of December 2015 for these projects.

 

Sacramento, Calif.

Michael Cahill

President, Siemens Rail Systems (U.S.)

Siemens is very excited about what’s going on in America’s mass transportation arena. And in 2014, we think people will be surprised by how much they’ll see Siemens across different modes of transportation. While Siemens has made its name in light rail, you’ll now see us branching out more in newer areas.

America will finally see Siemens’ new made-in-America electric locomotives in full service along the Northeast and Keystone corridors. These locomotives are part of a 70-vehicle deal, first announced in 2010. These locomotives are capable of reaching speeds of 125 mph, hauling a train of 12 single-level passenger coaches, are energy efficient and made with components provided by 69 businesses across the country. They’re also manufactured at our Sacramento, Calif., plant, which is 80 percent powered by solar energy.

Siemens will also be introducing America to its passenger-oriented diesel-electric locomotive offerings, now partnering with Cummins. This partnership will marry the best of today’s modern diesel engines with state-of-the-art locomotive technology, resulting in one of the lightest, fastest and most efficient diesel-electric locomotive offerings available for passenger rail.

We’re equally excited about some of our new streetcar offerings as well — a few of which will begin their duty in Atlanta. We’re seeing more cities interested in the flexibility of a unit having the ability to perform either as a streetcar or a light rail vehicle.

America is primed for a lot of exciting momentum in mass transportation over the next year. Cities are realizing the economic benefits of modernizing existing transportation. More than ever we’re seeing cities focus efforts on revving up their city cores — and modern, efficient transportation options are a key player in the plan to help pull people back into the downtown area.

Building new infrastructure is a real, tangible sign of confidence and commitment to a city’s people. Ridership is getting younger and more aware of the social and economic benefits of public transportation. As a business constantly changing to meet America’s growing and varying transportation needs, Siemens is feeling more confident than ever in the potential of the U.S. transportation infrastructure; convinced that it’s now primed to get to that next level of modernization that we hope will soon also include high-speed rail.

 

Minneapolis, Minn.

Brian Lamb

General manager, Metro Transit

We at Metro Transit have a lot to look forward to in 2014 as we grow our system to serve Twin Cities residents and visitors like never before.

Next year, light-rail trains will begin carrying customers between Minneapolis and St. Paul for the first time on the new Metro Green Line. The mid-year opening of the region’s second light-rail line will be a historic event not just for our Twin Cities, but the entire state.

The new 11-mile light rail line will connect the two downtowns and destinations like the state capitol area, the University of Minnesota and Target Field - where the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played on July 15. The green line will also connect with the Metro Blue Line – which we’ll celebrate for a decade of service since opening on June 24, 2004.

The green line is a signature component of our plan to develop a world-class transit system for the next generation – a system that better knits communities together, improves quality of life and strengthens our local economy. Already, it is enhancing the energy and activity in the unique and vibrant neighborhoods situated along the corridor. Even before a single customer has boarded, the green line has spurred $1.7 billion in private investment. Many of these new businesses and housing developments under construction will open next year. Through 2014 and beyond, Metro Transit will also be playing a more active role with development along transitways like the green line as we expand our newly-launched transit-oriented development office.

We project that more than a third of green line customers will transfer from local and express bus service. Dramatically restructured bus service will accompany the opening of the rail line. After more than a year of outreach to the various communities in the service area, this plan includes new routings, stops and schedules to best serve all of our customer markets and provide timed transfers to the green line.

In Minneapolis, a new multi-modal transportation hub adjacent to the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field will open in the spring. Target Field Station is a unique facility incorporating new community gathering spaces, a commercial activity center and a major transit hub. It will serve as a nexus for green and blue line trains, the Northstar Commuter Rail Line and dozens of nearby Metro bus routes.

We will also be busy planning and engineering the 15-mile green line extension which will run southwest from Minneapolis to suburban communities and job centers and a network of bus rapid transit lines. Next year, final design and construction is due to begin on a 10-mile BRT line running on major arterial streets in St. Paul and Minneapolis and connecting stations on the Metro Blue and Green Lines.

Finally, we hope to have the opportunity to welcome Mass Transit readers and staff aboard our transit system next year. Coming to the Twin Cities in 2014: The Community Transportation EXPO in June and the Rail~Volution Conference in September.

 

Buffalo Grove, Ill

Cosimo Malesci

Vice president, sales and marketing, Fluidmesh Networks

In 2014, we will focus on our Fluidity Wireless Technology to deliver broadband connectivity to mass transit vehicles as an alternative to cellular or satellite communication. Fluidity is a vehicle-to-ground wireless communication system capable of providing up to 100 Mbps up to 220 Mph in a seamless fashion. It can be integrated with any on-board system and used for multiple applications such as passenger Wi-Fi, CCTV live video monitoring and offload, digital signage and CBTC. Our goal is to resolve the current connectivity challenges affecting many transit agencies around the world.

Fluidity is composed of an on-board network, a trackside network and a backbone. Having a good data backbone along a train is a challenge and many trains are still using mechanical couplers that offer very limited throughput. Having the capability to create a wireless network between cars simplifies the on-board system.

The trackside network is the main infrastructure of a vehicle-to-ground communication system. It can send data along the track and provide connectivity to the vehicles. The spacing of the trackside radios is now between one to three miles.

The last piece is the backbone to the trackside radios. In most cases, this is done with fiber or a combination of wireless and fiber. Although this can seem a daunting task, with the rollout of PTC, a lot of the infrastructure is already being put in place thus facilitating the deployment of this technology. Many of the on-board systems are capable of switching between different transmission systems as needed.

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