Thursday, September 27, 2012
DCTA adds fuel-efficient cabins to Denton railway
Eleven new diesel-electric vehicles each provide seating for 200 and air conditioning.
Dave Kovach has spent the last five years representing the city of The Colony on the Denton County Transit Authority.
Kovach spent a few minutes at last week’s city council meeting bringing the city up to date on the latest developments. He said the biggest improvement — and what the authority is most proud of — is the addition of new trains that recently started running on the line.
The DCTA purchased 11 diesel-electric rail vehicles from Stadler that are compatible with the current rail system. The vehicles incorporate enhanced air conditioning, passenger information system, and video surveillance, according to the DCTA website. The spacious interior has room for wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles. The vehicles have a capacity of 200 people, with 104 seats and standing room for 96 others.
This means that for the first time ever, light-weight/fuel-efficient, eco-friendly vehicles will be permitted to operate in rail corridors concurrently with traditionally compliant vehicles, according its website.
The decision to purchase the new vehicles came after three years of research, Kovach said.
“We learned some serious lessons from our counterparts in Austin who were buying these Stadler rail vehicles,” he said. “We had spent a lot of time with the federal government going through a lot of regulations in order to get a waiver to allow us to run these new vehicles, which I believe are safer, on our rail lines. We spent a lot of time, not just on our behalf, but for the behalf of the entire region to make sure these are safe to run on a time-separated, or even a concurrent, mode with freight trains on some of the lines in the Metroplex.”
The approval of the DCTA/Stadler waiver request demonstrates that the enhanced crashworthiness and passenger protection systems inherent to the DCTA’s new rail vehicles meet the latest and most stringent safety standards in the U.S, according to its website.
The alternative designs enable lighter, more fuel-efficient rail vehicles equipped with a Crash Energy Management system to commingle with traditionally compliant equipment.
“We started running even before we had the new rail cars,” Kovach said. “We wanted to be efficient stewards. The rail line was built and we were ready to go. We reached out to DART and rented rail cars that were capable of being used on the rail line, and we have used those for the past 14 months.”
The DCTA has a staff of 23 individuals and a proposed 2013 budget of $45 million.
“We have millions of taxpayer’s dollars and we want to make sure those are spent reasonably,” Kovach said. “It’s the people’s money, and we want to be very careful with it.”
The budget relies on sales taxes from its three member cities – Denton, Highland Village, and Lewisville — to fund operations and maintenance. So far, it operates 22 bus routes in Denton and Lewisville, and provides service to the University of North Texas on a contract basis.
The A-train is a 21-mile commuter rail line connecting Denton County to DART’s Green line in Carrollton. It was built using a grant from regional toll revenues and opened in June 2011.
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