Newsletter Archive Summaries

Throughout the 1990's, TPE published an occasional newsletter, touching on a variety of subjects in rail transportation. These are currently available from our archives, and the summaries are provided below. The last published issue was June 1997, and no further issues are planned.

Copies of these newsletters can be ordered from D&DE Press, P.O. Box 3688, Carson City, NV 89702-3688, or you can request one by sending us and email. Be sure to include the title and date of the article with your request.


May 1990

Mass Transit in the Greater Reno, Nevada, Area - As It Could Be

We thought this would be a good way to start a newsletter dedicated to public transit. Jump head first into a fantasy land and imagine: What type of public transit system could we have in our area if cost were no objection, desire had no limits, and further delay in wielding political clout might endanger the precious environmental wonder of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierras. We stopped at nothing. Elevated, automated transit; high-speed trains from San Francisco; magnetic levitation units; rubber-tired people movers; fast, electric commuter trains; aerial tramways. The roar of the laughing decision makers has not subsided even today.

Return to Newsletter Listing


August 1990

Must the LRV Look Like a Box?

This question, asked when the boxy look of LRVs seemed to enjoy undisputed support, created something of a stir. This became one of our most popular issues! Those opposing our cry for change could submit only worn-out, unconvincing arguments: "Beauty is only skin deep," or "It is not looks that are important but safety, reliability, and maintainability" (as if one would exclude the other). However, by a four to one margin, people wanted attractive vehicles on their streets. Inquiries for our newsletter came from as far away as Finland and India. We would like to think that, even if ever so slightly, we have participated in improving the architecture of newly arriving light rail vehicles.

Return to Newsletter Listing


September 1990

High-Speed Rail in Northern Nevada

An intercity passenger railcar transport does not do too well in the United States today. The reason for this is clear: a winning competition from the airlines. A careful analysis, however, will find trains to be competitive within travel distances up to 500 miles. The key to success is the high speed of modern trains. This newsletter looks at the potential of introducing high-speed trains in Nevada. Just think about it, a one-hour trip between San Francisco and Reno. Doesn't this sound exciting?

Return to Newsletter Listing


October 1990

A Standard or a High-Capacity Rail Car? A Bi-Level or a Gallery Arrangement?

In the United States today, the two main competitors for the leading commuter railcar arrangement are either a gallery car or a true bi-level design. This newsletter provides a comparison of both, although we conclude that the future belongs to the full bi-level car arrangement.

Return to Newsletter Listing

Return toTop

December 1990

The Success of the Toronto Bi-Level: The Project Engineer Looks Back

The Canadian GO Transit (Toronto) bi-level commuter railcar was developed between the years 1975-1977. Twenty-five years and 550 units later, the car has become a hit. It is fully compliant with ADA requirements, offering standard entrance ramps and accessible toilets. A number of options have also become available: an operator cab for push/pull service, luggage and bicycle racks, small tables to facilitate the use of lap-top computers, onboard cellular phone, and food and beverage service. For all practical purposes, the car has become the standard commuter railcar in North America.  Its original project engineer shares the memories of the car's design and development.

Return to Newsletter Listing                                           


January 1991

LAHT Steel, Aluminum, and Stainless Steel in Passenger Railcar Construction

The question that naturally comes to mind is which of them is "the best." Surprisingly, the issue is neither easy to analyze nor is the answer unequivocal. To facilitate a choice among the structural materials for a specific application, a table was made that compared their characteristics such as their specific gravity, strength-to-weight ratio, fire and corrosion resistance, material cost, manufacturing and maintainability cost advantages, esthetics, ease to repair and availability on the market (or competitiveness of the suppliers).

Return to Newsletter Listing


May 1991

Toward Better Traction on the San Francisco Cable Car: Narrowing the Choices

The famous San Francisco cable cars are propelled by 1-1/4 inch diameter cable. The car operator applies a grip to the running cable, allowing the car to climb or safely descend the steep hills of the city. This simple system has one disadvantage. Owing to the high rate of wear, the expensive cables, 10 miles of them in the system, have to be replaced every 100-200 days. This newsletter relates the history of an engineering study concerned with extending the life of the cable.

Return to Newsletter Listing


June 1991

A Concept for a Standardized Family of Intercity and Commuter Railcars

Extending passenger commuter and intercity rail transportation brings questions of strategic importance. What will be the railcar of the future? Can its design be flexible enough to fulfill, if needed, the functions of both intercity and commuter transit? Can some, if not a majority, of the structural and equipment subsystems find use in both applications? What car arrangement displays the highest degree of adaptability for this functional transformation? This newsletter recounts issues that were considered at the birth of the successful Hawker Siddeley Canada bi-level railcar, further developed and presently manufactured and distributed by Bombardier.

Return to Newsletter Listing


August 1991

New Technologies Are Shaping the Future of Mass Transit

In the shadow of the competition between wheel-on-rail and magnetic levitation high-speed trains, public transit is experiencing a continual growth of other newly emerging technologies. In addition to the improvements of the established systems, the future promises rapid introduction of new construction materials and alternative fuels, revolution in train control and onboard communication devices, as well as vast advances in vehicle accessibility and, in the cities, passenger pickups on demand.

Return to Newsletter Listing


September 1991

How to Fit a Larger LRV Into a Restrictive Wayside Clearance

If you need a higher-capacity LRV for your old system, do not just demand a longer carbody. Warning: Big trouble in sight! After years of service, the cars and the wayside obstacles fit each other like hand in glove. You may, however, safely increase the capacity of the new car by adding a carbody articulation. If your old, single-articulated car is 78 feet long by 8 feet and 8 inches wide, by adding a second articulation you can increase its width to 13 feet. Maintaining the original width, the second articulation will allow you to increase the vehicle length to 106 feet.

Return to Newsletter Listing


October 1991

Improving the Custom Fit of Demand-Responsive Transit Operations

A demand-responsive transit uses small passenger vans. The vans' routes are custom tailored per calls for pickup coming from the serviced area. The number of passengers will be vastly increased and the wait time for service greatly reduced if the routes are optimized with the help of a computer program. Further improvement can be expected with the use of radio communication between the vans on the one hand and the patrons on the other with the central computer. This newsletter describes various, gradually improving demand-responsive systems and proposes a Super Van system that would be capable of delivering service within minutes from a demand placed.

Return to Newsletter Listing


June 1992

ADA and the LRV Design Buff Load

The requirements of ADA for LRVs, resulting in the emergence of low floors and cutouts in the underframe for lifts, will create new challenges for structural engineers. These challenges will make it necessary to reexamine the specified LRV design buff loads and to compare them with design buff loads on other types of vehicles. When a comparison that takes into consideration the size of the trains and their operating speeds is made, a case can be made for lowering the buff load of 2g at AWO (empty) vehicle weight presently specified in the United States.

Return to Newsletter Listing


September 1993

ADA and Onboard Lifts on Public Transit Vehicles

A great deal of change and innovation is occurring in the field of car-born devices for facilitating the transfer of disabled passengers to and from public transit vehicles. The typical passenger to be considered is a person in a wheelchair. The objective of this newsletter is to identify the state of the art and to examine the available lifting hardware and the methodology of its use for public transit. For this purpose, the existing lifts have been divided into the following categories: (1) folding lifts, (2) rotary lifts, (3) lifts in entrance steps, and (4) miscellaneous lifts.

Return to Newsletter Listing


November 1993

Technology Guides Implementation of ADA in Public Transit

Technology Guides Implementation of ADA in Public Transit

The introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) placed serious responsibilities on public transit authorities in the United States. The goal of this newsletter is to examine the readiness of technology in responding to the requirements of the ADA. It also provides an overview of the situation in this field for the transit managers who must meet the challenges of the act. As has happened many times in the past with similar challenges, the role of technology will be decisive in assuring the required accessibility to public means of transportation.

Return to Newsletter Listing


February 1994

On Styling Bi-Level Commuter Railcars

The design and development of public transportation vehicles requires a skillful blending of several disciplines, including knowledge of operations, car performance, structural engineering, human factors, and material science. In addition, the process can be expected to be successful if the design is optimized in a way that results in its attractive appearance. This newsletter analyzes the esthetic values of two successful commuterrailcars: the Toronto GO-Transit and the Sydney, Australia, bi-level cars.

Return to Newsletter Listing


March 1994

Buff Loads for LRVs in the United States Are Too High

In this newsletter, a Crash Index is introduced: the carbody buff load divided by the kinetic energy of the train in motion. The physical meaning of the index is that it tells how much buff resistance is assigned to handle, endure, and disperse a unit of the train’s energy. The comparison shows that LRV carbodies are structurally underutilized and excessively heavy because Crash Indices of LRVs are four times higher than those for rapid transit and mainline cars.

Return to Newsletter Listing                                           View Entire Newsletter On-line


May 1994

How to Provide an Existing High-Floor LRV With Low-Floor Capabilities

The purchase of new low-floor LRVs may tie up considerable funds that could otherwise be expended on other urgent needs. At the same time, a large part of the existing LRV stock in the United States and Canada is relatively new and will not be retired from service for many years. These two facts can be capitalized on in a positive way through retrofitting currently operating high-floor, single-articulation cars with a low-floor middle section by adding a second articulation. This newsletter provides an outline of an engineering analysis needed to decide whether such a retrofit is a viable alternative.

Return to Newsletter Listing


September 1994

Low-Floor LRVs Take Over the Market

The conquest of urban light rail transit by low-floor vehicles continues, and new designs appear with increasing frequency. Dr. Eva Kunow, the editor-in-chief of the German monthly Stadtverkehr Technik, kindly gave us permission to reprint the statistics of 60 low-floor designs that first entered the market. Mr. Harry Hondius, an internationally recognized authority on low-floor LRVs and the author of the statistical tables, introduced us to the UIC (Union of International Railways) Code 650 V classification of axle/truck arrangements.

Return to Newsletter Listing


November 1994

Applicability of Low-Floor Light Rail Vehicles in North America

Low floors provide the ideal answer to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They also improve the system’s performance by speeding up the exchange of all passengers. Despite these clear advantages, the introduction of low-floor LRVs in the United States continues at a slow pace. One reason is that the carbody compression loads are higher than they are for our European counterparts. Equally restrictive is the reluctance in accepting unfamiliar solutions, such as equipment on the roofs or exotic truck designs. In fairness, such novelties require rebuilding shops and redoing maintenance procedures. This newsletter compares the pros and cons of the incoming LRV revolution.

Return to Newsletter Listing


February 1995

Assuring the Quality of Public Transit Vehicles in the Procurement Program

Assuring the quality of purchased equipment is a major concern of every transit authority seeking to upgrade their fleet. This newsletter provides a brief overview of the engineering and managerial procedures used to secure this objective. The text includes references to vehicle specifications, the process of selecting the car builder, design reviews, mockups, testing, quality control, and commissioning of vehicles as steps leading to the desired and stipulated levels of quality. The most important step in this process is awareness of its continuity from inception to completion of the procurement program.

Return to Newsletter Listing


March 1995

The Project Engineer in Overcoming the Budget and Schedule Difficulties of Procurement Programs

What are the reasons for those enduring problems that occur in public transit vehicle procurement programs? Why are there all of these well-known difficulties with maintaining budgets and schedules? At least part of the problem can be traced to the degrading of the role of the project engineer. There is no substitute for the hierarchy of responsibilities. There must always be an individual who is qualified, willing, and authorized to say yes or no in situations that would otherwise be debated endlessly by the management team. Too frequently, relying on the presence of "teamwork" is a sleeping pill that we gladly swallow to pacify our concerns about a project.

Return to Newsletter Listing


April 1995

A Quick Trip to Europe: Six Days - Six Low-Floor LRV Manufacturers

The growing popularity of low-floor light rail vehicles prompted us to see the makers of this trend at its source. From January 23 through January 28, 1995, we visited six LRV manufacturers in Europe: Linke Hofmann Busch in Saltzgitter, Germany; ABB Eurotram team in Strasbourg, France; Schindler Waggon in Pratteln near Basel, Switzerland; BN Bombardier Eurorail in Brugge, Belgium; a Siemens subsidiary SGP in Vienna, Austria; and Bombardier Eurorail operations in the same city. During this trip, we saw for the first time a vehicle roof just glued down to the sidewalls, and the skins attached to the rest of the structure with the use of Velcro tapes!

Return to Newsletter Listing


May 1996

Can the Air Comfort System for Transit Cars Be Improved?

Air conditioning today is a standard feature of passenger rail vehicles in the United States. Unfortunately, it frequently does not satisfy either passengers or transit operators both from the point of view of performance as well as maintenance. How does such a system work? How can it be improved? This newsletter attends to these concerns and related issues, answering questions regarding air comfort system requirements, as well as the design and application of such systems.

Return to Newsletter Listing


December 1996

Research on Upgrading San Francisco Cable Car Brakes, 1986-1992

Typically, the San Francisco cable car uses two types of brakes in its service: a foot-operated wheel-tread brake and a manually activated track brake. In an emergency, a third slot brake is applied, also manually. The emergency brake consists of a steel wedge pressed forcefully into the slot between the rails. In 1986, the Municipal Railway of the County and City of San Francisco awarded a contract for upgrading the brake systems on the celebrated cable cars. This newsletter gives a brief account of the project, which provided a wealth of data for the improvement of the cable car operational characteristics.

Return to Newsletter Listing

Return toTop

April 1997

Redefining Automated People Movers

The Automated People Mover (APM), when defined as a “vehicle automatically controlled over exclusive right-of-ways (note the use of two characteristics only), includes such a variety of vehicles that it becomes meaningless as a term facilitating communication. Can a fully automated high-speed intercity train be called a people mover? It fits the definition! These difficulties are examined, and solutions are proposed. When 10 rather than 2 characteristics are considered, it becomes clear that APMs as defined today include in fact two categories of vehicles, those of people movers "proper" and the other one the automated light rail vehicles.

Return to Newsletter Listing


May 1997

Aerial Cable Transportation

The transportation system most easily adapted to rugged or busy areas, such as amusement parks, ski areas, or backcountry mines, is that of cable. The overhead wire rope (or cable) provides elegant solutions where rough or poorly accessible terrain would prohibit other options. Today, cable installations belong to the most dynamically developing transit systems, reaching capacities of up to 5,000 passengers per hour. The newsletter provides a short overview of cable systems, such as aerial tramways, chairs fixed to a moving cable, detachable cabins, detachable chairs, systems with two active cables, and detachable tramways.

Return to Newsletter Listing


June 1997

The 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions About LRV Compression Load

The 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions About LRV Compression Load

This text was intended to summarize the most recent understanding of the effect of design compression load on the safety of light rail vehicles. The following are examples of frequently asked questions. "2g was always a requirement. Why change it?" "Why worry about a little additional weight when the cars are safer?" "How does collapsible, energy-absorbing front end reduce car deceleration in a collision?" "What happens to passengers subjected to collision deceleration? What is the tradeoff in lowering the present level of LRV buff loads in the United States?

Return to Newsletter Listing

Services | Experience | Newsletters | Staff and Associates | Search | Contact Us | Home

Copyright © 2000-2002 Transit Performance Engineering
Site Design & Production by: Parallax Design Group