Monday, November 10, 2008

Building Up the Industry

So it seems that while we're looking to bail out our auto industry at the same time the European tram manufacturers are drooling over the expansion of rail in this country. While there is a buy America component, the profits go back to Europe and Asia. It seems about time to start to think seriously about building up a transit industry here?
But that is not stopping European companies like Siemens of Germany, AnsaldoBreda of Italy, CAF of Spain and Skoda of the Czech Republic from jockeying for position at the head of the line, eager to supply sleek new streetcars, now tagged light rail vehicles, for one of the few fast-growing markets for trams. Competition from elsewhere comes primarily from Bombardier of Canada and Kinki Sharyo of Japan.

15 comments:

jon said...

local pols in Oregon have helped get Oregon Iron Works in the streetcar building business with the United Streetcar venture

rhywun said...

If the demand really ramps up, surely an American company will step up. In the meantime, Siemens is creating jobs here and maybe others will too.

Mark said...

I think that's an excellent point. Besides high energy prices, I think that the idea of transit spending as economic stimulus is going to be the key to building popular support for an ambitious expansion of our public transit.

Many people have mentioned "retooling" the automakers to make more efficient cars. This is a nice start, but I think that if the government is going to bail Ford/GM out, it should not only receive some equity (as it has in the bank bailouts), but also some influence over what the money goes toward, such as converting some SUV factories to build trains, or something like that. Plug-in hybrids and the like will have a place in our transportation future (especially in the next 10-20 years), but more emphasis should be put on transit.

Justin said...

America USED to have many top quality rail builders; Budd, Brill...

Thank you Ronald Reagan for your insane policies.

smallerdemon said...

Ah, yes, when I first moved to San Francisco in 1999 there were still a few Boeing Vertol's on the J and L lines. MUNI have moved to Breda for the N Judah by then and I live(d) on that line. I can't speak for the reliability of the Vertol, but I know that it limited boarding on the street to two center doors and it didn't have air conditioning. You may think it's cool in San Francisco, but pack a street car full of sweaty commuters, hippie wannabes and homeless punks that haven't bathed in six months and you find yourself dying for some A/C relief. In the end, you could buy a Boeing Vertol car from MUNI for $400. You had to handle shipping cost.

Rhywun said...

smallerdemon,

I was living in SF for one year when the Bredas were coming in, and I remember there were a lot of problems with them. How'd they work out? I never rode one.

SFHope said...

The Bredas in SF have their own problems though. Damn are they heavy and clunky and failure-prone.

I really wish we had Kinki Sharyo cars like San Jose does. The San Jose light rail has some horrible alignment choices (specifically anything past the Tasman split, and I still think the transit mall was a mistake -- transit malls make good termini, not good throughways) but they made a really good choice in rolling stock.

Ian said...

i gotta say, the united streetcar / oregon iron works cars... well, lets say, could use some design improvements. it's a good first attempt though.

Siemens vehicles look all right, but IMO, the best trams are made by Alstom (France), the CITADIS... they have shipped 1000 to countries around the world and make a point of styling the nose section to match the architecture / character of the city (check out Lyon's silkworm-inspired trams)

jon said...

maybe we can have an informal favorite rail car design poll on this blog?

i realize breda isnt the best as far as reliability but on the whole i like their designs the best like the muni lrvs and new los angeles lrvs. i also like the new r-142 (irt) subway cars in nyc and the acela express trainset which i believe are both bombardier.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Good idea Jon. I'll toss something up there for votes.

njh said...

The W-class tram has got to be an all time winner. They are still in use world wide. (from your highly parochial Melbournite)

But yes, despite all the neigh-sayers (and they can say it until they're hoarse) I think the San Jose light rail is great, as do all of my colleagues: I've now convinced 5 people to use the light rail to get to work, and every one, once they got over their terror and loathing, found that actually, the light rail is great.

Anonymous said...

Well Jeff, I live in Montreal which has the HQ for Bombardier.

In transit, Andrew

jon said...

while not a lrv, i am wondering what people here think of the colorado railcar DMU design?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/railwaybob/2699724328/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/djasonpenney/2948454294/

i think these dmus could use some serious changes aesthetically though i havent been on one yet to comment on the interior.

those old boeings in SF were so beat up thought thats half muni's poor maintainance and half the fu*k ups who trash the vehicles in SF, but they were huge lemons and boston knew it when they were being delievered so they sold a good number to SF. nonetheless its a real shame so few transport museums were interested in preserving the cars since they represent an important era of transit history.

i personally find the kinki sharyo san jose cars to be quite unattactive, though i think their seattle cars are a huge improvement.

perhaps another time we can debate our favorite contemporary station designs :)

Matt Fisher said...

Yeah. I know the Boeing LRVs that used to be used in Boston and San Francisco were was marred by deficiencies, and are no longer used. They probably were "lemons".

In Toronto, the present streetcars (after the PCCs were phased out) were made by the Urban Transit Development Corporation (UTDC), originally set up by the Ontario government. It was apparently "privatized", and has been purchased by Bombardier. The PCC could have been staying in all the places where they were used until the end of their useful life. It was a mistake to end streetcar service in so many places across America.

In fact, the PCC design inspired the Tatra trams used in Eastern Europe, including that they remain the bulwark of trams in Prague. And in some places in Belgium (Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent), the PCC remains in the majority. Brussels has continued to use PCCs since 1951, and Antwerp has since 1960. I've been stunned that there used to be a company in Ottawa that made streetcars once. I think it was the Ottawa Car Company.

Anonymous said...

Siemens is the only light rail carbuilder that has a permanent facility in the US. It's in Sacramento, CA. With the upswing in business (Denver, Salt Lake City) they are hiring 200 new employees.