Posts Tagged ‘NIH’

Civil engineers in the US have a blind spot for any work done in foreign countries (especially non-English speaking ones). One example comes from a recent bike safety study done by Georgia Tech.

Researchers in the Ga Tech Civil Engineering Dept. tried to analyze which bike facility provides the most effective safety benefit:

Shared lane markings. Bike lanes painted a bright color. Bike boxes at intersections. Cycle tracks that provide physical barriers between bikes and cars.

Communities have built these and other flavors of infrastructure to try to make it safer for people to ride their bikes along roadways or through neighborhoods. But which ones work best?

The short answer is, we really aren’t sure yet.

That conclusion comes from a group of School of Civil and Environmental Engineering transportation researchers who analyzed studies on the effectiveness of bicycle safety infrastructure. Their work appears in the June issue of the Journal of Safety Research.

“There’s just so little research that we really have no idea how well most of these pieces of infrastructure are working in terms of keeping people safer,” said Kari Watkins, Frederick Law Olmsted associate professor and one of the study’s co-authors.

In fact, we have very good data as to what kind of bike infrastructure works because the Dutch (and Germans and Danes) figured this stuff out decades ago. They have published numerous papers, not to mention design manuals.

So why don’t researchers look at any of the results from Netherlands? Because…

Watkins said researchers may have missed relevant and insightful studies from other countries where much more bicycling infrastructure exists, like Germany and the Netherlands, simply because the work has not been translated into English.


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Colorado Railcar Not Dead Yet

Colorado Railcar has come out of bankruptcy. American Railcar Industries, a St. Charles, Mo.-based freight car manufacturer owned by investor Carl Icahn, announced a joint venture with Columbus, Ohio-based US Railcar:

US Railcar Company, LLC, the joint venture of US Railcar, LLC and ARI will be led by President & CEO Michael P. Pracht, a rail industry veteran with extensive experience with the world’s leading rail transportation companies. “These are extraordinary times with growth opportunities for passenger rail in the US” said Mr. Pracht. “The US Railcar Company DMU is designed to enable new cost-effective and environmentally friendly passenger rail service across a range of corridors and routes, all with a proven, existing equipment platform already in service.”

The US Railcar Company DMU was prototyped through a demonstration project in 2002 and is currently the only DMU that is fully compliant with Federal Railroad Administration passenger equipment safety regulations as stated in 49 CFR Part 238. This means the US Railcar Company DMU can be quickly pressed into service using existing freight tracks. 1O DMUs are currently providing reliable passenger service in Florida, Alaska and Oregon.

Colorado Railcar US Railcar is a classic example of how FRA/FTA “Buy-America” trade-protection policies foists expensive and unreliable rolling stock on transit agencies. The company’s survival depends on FRA regulation ’49 CFR Part 238′, which carves out special protected status against far superior offerings from foreign firms.

Even worse, US Railcar is seeking out taxpayer bailout.

US Railcar hopes to build a 100,000-square-foot passenger rail car factory in Gahanna that could employ up to 200 workers. But it needs $8.7 million in federal transportation stimulus
dollars for the project. Although Congress doesn’t directly award stimulus funds, It sure doesn’t hurt, does it? Jourdan said of Pracht’s appearances in Washington.

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Because US firms have done such a great job designing passenger rail cars, Quentin Kopp is proposing to re-tool the idled NUMMI automobile plan for railcar manufacturing:

If Quentin Kopp with the California High Speed Rail Authority has his way, high speed rail cars, which are now not manufactured in this country, would be made at idled auto plants. “We’ve got to win the idea of creating high speed rail in America, and doing it in a way that advances jobs for Americans,” said Kopp.

There is enormous historical precedent for make-work domestic transit vehicles being unreliable. Even if that were not the case, this proposal by “fiscal conservative” Quentin Kopp will increase trainset costs considerably.

Re-tooling factories has very high up-front cost. The existing manufacturers have already developed factories and assembly lines. They sell to a global marketplace. The California (and even entire US market) is tiny by comparison. So unless that NUMMI plant has realistic plans to sell product to customers way beyond California, its per-unit trainset cost will be sky high.

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