As gasoline prices continue to fluctuate, regional mass transit systems look better and better as an alternative to personal automobiles for daily commuting.
A Global Solution To Regional Mass Transit
As gasoline prices continue to fluctuate, regional mass transit systems look better and better as an alternative to personal automobiles for daily commuting. But, as these systems expand to meet the growing demand, they often run into an increasingly common dilemma.
Much of the best technology available today is from Europe and Asia, but most regional systems are government entities that must observe “Buy American” mandates when upgrading their infrastructure. Fortunately, reconciling the two demands doesn’t always require settling for a less-than-optimal solution.
Chicago’s Metra commuter rail is a case in point. Metra serves 500 miles of track and 230 stations in six counties. As part of a plan to upgrade both efficiency and customer satisfaction levels, Metra is replacing aging passenger cars with new Highliner cars, featuring the latest mass-transit technology from around the world.
The cars are being built by a Japanese company, Nippon Sharyo, and powered by Toshiba traction motors, but the final drives-a key high-value component-will be supplied by Voith Turbo of York, Pa. The final drives will be assembled and tested in Pennsylvania using gear wheels, bearings, seals and gear couplings from qualified U.S. suppliers.
“These units will help Nippon meet the 60 percent American content requirement for the new cars with no sacrifice in either quality or technology,” said Voith sales engineer Michael Klug.
The drives feature an advanced design that helps prevent oil leakage, making the new cars more environmentally friendly than the ones they replace. They are also compact and robust, which contributes to rider comfort by increasing the car’s reliability, and to operational efficiency by reducing maintenance requirements.
The first 16 Highliner cars went into service with Metra already. Voith will deliver a total of 116 final drives over the life of the program.
“We expect this kind of partnership to be the model for many more regional transportation systems across the U.S.,” added Klug. “The marriage of global technology and local manufacturing and service is very hard to beat.”