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MARTA placed the order with Siemens on behalf of the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District. This marks Siemens’ entry into the newly emerging market segment for streetcars in the US. Siemens has already established itself as a U.S. market leader for light rail transit systems with its S70 vehicle platform.
The four new streetcars are based on the proven S70 light rail vehicle platform that Siemens developed specially for the North American market. Up till now these vehicles have only been used in mass transit and regional services linking the suburbs to the city, such as in Houston, Charlotte, San Diego, Portland and Salt Lake City.
Their design, however, also allows these vehicles to be operated, if required by the operator, as streetcars in the inner-city areas. The new contract from Atlanta means that the S70 will be operated in the city centre as a streetcar for the first time.
The new Siemens streetcars are part of Atlanta’s current project involving the construction of a comprehensive regional streetcar and light rail transit system. In an initial phase these Siemens vehicles are to bridge the existing gap in public transportation within the core of Altanta's downtown area and connect major area attractions, historic landmarks, educational centers, shopping centers, and other vibrant public spaces.
Moreover, the new 2.7 mile (4.3 km) route with 12 stops will provide a link between downtown Atlanta and its key business districts. As the regional system around Atlanta grows, the streetcars can be converted to meet the rising demand for light rail transit operation. The first car is expected to be delivered in September 2012 and start revenue service in early 2013.
Unlike light rail transit systems that mainly run on tracks separated from the roads, streetcars run on rails set into the road surface and therefore share the road with private motor vehicles. The streetcar offers an attractive alternative to traveling by car or bus because it is designed fora top speed of 35 mph (56 km/h), runs parallel with the road traffic and serves short local routes with frequent stops.
The double-articulated, bidirectional vehicles from Siemens are to run in Atlanta at intervals of 15 minutes. The 70 per cent low-floor area enables passengers to board and exit comfortably without any obstructions.
Siemens has acquired decades of experience in building rail systems and trains in the US. The new S70 streetcars are to be built at the Siemens plant in Sacramento, California, while other train components, such as the propulsion system, will come from the Siemens manufacturing facility in Alpharetta, a suburb of Atlanta.
Since 1984, the Sacramento plant has delivered more than 1,000 light rail cars for 17 cities in the North American market. One in three light rail transit systems in the US originates from the U.S. market leader Siemens. The workforce at the Sacramento facility is currently being expanded from about 700 to almost 1,000 employees.