The good news: the FRA has created an “expedited” process for transit agencies to get waivers on running modern light-weight trains.
The bad news: the process still takes three years to complete:
On Monday, June 4, 2012, Administrator Joseph Szabo of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in conjunction with the American Public Transportation Association Annual Rail Conference will formally announce approval of DCTA’s request to operate the Stadler GTW concurrent with traditional, compliant equipment. This means that for the first time ever; light-weight/fuel efficient, eco-friendly low-floor vehicles will be permitted to operate in rail corridors concurrently with traditionally compliant vehicles. The waiver, a first of its kind, will expand commuter rail options for transportation authorities across the United States.
In 2009, the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) prepared a set of technical criteria and procedures for evaluating passenger rail train-sets that have been built to alternative designs. The alternative designs enable lighter, more fuel-efficient rail vehicles equipped with a Crash Energy Management system to commingle with traditionally compliant equipment.
DCTA (Denton County Transit Authority) began the waiver application process in 2009. Even better, they had to rely on our good friends at LTK Engineering Services to make “safety” modifications:
Stadler, DCTA, and DCTA’s vehicle consultant, LTK Engineering Services, have been working closely with the FRA to achieve this waiver since 2009. DCTA partnered with Stadler to make modifications and enhancements to the GTW to comply with the required safety guidelines. Modifications include changes to the fuel tank design, window glazing and passenger and operator seats.
One wonders how much pure profit LTK earned on designing the FRA-compliant operator seat.