A case of space

Case Studies
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Few projects provide more challenges than building in the middle of a city. In this environment your most precious commodity is space. Every property purchased requires another building to be demolished, and at the end of the day, boundaries are not merely imaginary lines through an open field but neighboring streets and buildings. This was the situation faced by the Red Rose Transit Authority, the public transportation system for Lancaster County, Pa.

Serving a city with over 50,000 residents and a metro area of almost 500,000, the Red Rose Transit Authority (RRTA) needed a downtown transit station to adequately serve their customers. The property would require an indoor sales area, customer seating and office space for staff; an onsite trash and storage area; outdoor bus shelters; overflow seating; drive lanes; and parking for 11 buses at a time. Only 1 acre of space was available on the selected site.

Brinjac Engineering was the engineering firm chosen to tackle this challenging project. Calling on an array of land development experience, Brinjac worked with the RRTA through a number of sketches to meet their need for 11 buses to be able to park and drive simultaneously and safely on the 1-acre site. When a final sketch was selected, the real challenge had just begun: How would the design hold up in a real-world setting, not with circle templates but with real buses?

To keep costs low, maintenance personnel from the RRTA had laid out the drive lanes, parking stalls and constraining site limits (buildings to the north and south along with a 10-ft wall to the east) using masking tape. Because public transportation systems rarely rest or shut down, only four buses and drivers were available for the mock layout, attempting to represent all the parking and driving needs of 11 buses.

Two hours and multiple test runs later, four areas of conflict were identified, areas where the buses had to cross the tape to maneuver. While the tape merely represented site constraints, driving over curbs and through walls would not be an option when the site was finally constructed. With the realization that every change in design could create a ripple effect of problems at other areas on the site, it was back to the drawing board.

During the second mock layout test run for the project, it was known that the process had a number of inherent problems. Financially, it was expensive to pay drivers overtime to test-drive a site layout. Additionally, the timing was inconvenient and burdened everyone’s already-busy schedule. Furthermore, human error in laying out the mock site, without the benefit of a survey crew, was virtually unavoidable. Four buses did not provide coverage for all the possible conflicts of having 11 buses on the site at once. The RRTA also had three different styles of buses that would be using the site, each with its own constraints on size and turning radius. Clearly, a new approach was needed.

Frustrated with the previous results, Brinjac turned to Transoft Solutions’ AutoTURN . The AutoTURN software simulates vehicle swept-path movements. The flexible software did not limit engineers to using a preset “standard bus.” Instead, it enabled them to design custom buses based on vehicle size, wheel spacing and axle length. They were able to see how each type of bus worked with the design and which buses would work better at specific locations.

Now, each time a layout revision was done, engineers were able to check it with the software in a matter of moments. The software also allowed for unimagined presentation ability and the ease of saving copies of the test runs performed. Each style of bus could be presented in a different color, showing a clear picture to the client. It also worked seamlessly with Autodesk computer-aided design software, giving engineers the full ability to save and edit their work. Instead of test runs taking a day’s worth of effort and hours to implement, designs could be reviewed in a matter of minutes. Human error was all but eliminated, with precision to a hundredth of a decimal.

As a final result, there was a tremendous savings in project time and cost, reducing what might have been four or five mock layouts and crossed fingers at construction time to needing no more mock layouts and confidence that the design would work in the real world.

With over 200 trips each day, the RRTA’s Queen Street Station is standing the test of time. What could have been a site deemed too small to accommodate 11 buses instead boasts 11 buses twice each weekday and a perfect vehicular safety record. The next time you begin to tell a client they will need to scale back what they want from a design, take a closer look. With the right software you may find that you already have all the space you need.

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