Friday, May 20, 2011

Siemens to Build Streetcars for Atlanta

/PRNewswire/ -- Siemens Industry, Inc. today announced that it has been awarded a $17.2 million contract from Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), on behalf of the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, to provide Atlanta with four new streetcars. The first car is expected to be delivered in September 2012 with revenue service beginning in early 2013. These will be the first streetcars in Atlanta since 1949 and will mark Siemens entry into the streetcar market in the United States.

"The Atlanta Streetcar project will keep the City of Atlanta competitive with other cities by improving our transit connectivity, boosting our tourism industry, helping local businesses, and building a more sustainable future," Mayor Reed said. "Our agreement with Siemens will ensure that we have modern, world-class vehicles along the route to serve Atlanta residents and visitors for years to come."

The streetcars will be built at Siemens' railcar and locomotive plant in Sacramento, Calif., an operation powered primarily by two megawatts of solar energy. Additionally, major components including the propulsion system will be built at Siemens manufacturing facility in the metro-Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta.

"An investment in the core of the city, in Downtown Atlanta, is good for all of the metropolitan area," said Craig Jones, Executive Vice President & Chief Investment Officer with Cousins Properties, Inc. "In just 4 years we've seen a complete transformation in One Ninety One Peachtree Tower as well as along the rest of the Peachtree corridor with new restaurants, retail, office, tenants and now the Atlanta Streetcar. We're proud to be a part of this resurgence."

Streetcars are part of the first phase of Atlanta's project to create a comprehensive, regional streetcar and light rail transit system. The streetcars will initially run in a loop, bridging the gap between east and west downtown that was formed by the development of the I-75/85 connector. The new system will provide connectivity for the core of downtown Atlanta, improving accessibility to key business destinations and event venues. The system will also serve as the catalyst for transit oriented development within the loop.

"Siemens is a firm with a proven track record and an exceptional product. At MARTA, it is exciting to work with our partners to introduce this new generation of modern, low-floor rail transit to the greater Atlanta region," said Dr. Beverly A. Scott, General Manager and CEO, MARTA. "This streetcar starter line serves the historic Martin Luther King Center and connects to MARTA and the heart of the Capitol city at Peachtree Center."

The four new streetcars are based on the proven Siemens S70 light rail vehicle platform, which was designed in the United States and is in operation in cities such as Houston, Charlotte, San Diego, Portland and Salt Lake City. The streetcars were purchased through an existing contract with the Utah Transit Authority and will be customized to meet Atlanta's operating environment. The streetcars are fully upgradeable for future light rail operation as the regional system grows.

"Siemens S70 streetcar was designed for and will be built right here in the United States," said Daryl Dulaney, President and CEO of Siemens Industry, Inc. "We look forward to working with the city of Atlanta to provide a safe, efficient and versatile means to connect within the City that will help residents and visitors get where they need to go now and in the future."

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Ford and Georgia Tech Partner on "Green Eco School Bus" - Nation's First Hydraulic Hybrid School Bus Conversion

/PRNewswire/ -- The Ford Motor Company Fund and the Georgia Institute of Technology are partnering on the nation's first conversion of a traditional school bus to a hydraulic hybrid vehicle that runs on recycled biofuel. Atlanta Public Schools (APS) donated the bus for the project.

Conducted by Georgia Tech, the project is financed by a $50,000 Ford College Community Challenge Grant, one of five given annually for a student-led project that matches university resources with an urgent community need related to sustainability. This project focuses on converting existing school buses into hydraulic hybrids, which could lower greenhouse emissions and reduce transportation costs for schools.

Michael Leamy, Georgia Tech assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and his students have designed and developed the hydraulic hybrid system for the 16-passenger school bus, and its installation is nearly complete.

Students at Mary Lin Elementary School are painting "the Green Eco School Bus" green and organizing a drive to collect used cooking oil for processing into biodiesel, a renewable energy source.

"Together with Georgia Tech and Atlanta Public Schools, we are taking innovation from the classroom to the community," said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. "This is a noteworthy example of the types of programs we are bringing to Atlanta as part of our new Operation Goodwill partnership with local Ford and Lincoln dealers with the goal of expanding our engagement with this community."

This project includes a cost-benefit analysis of a large-scale conversion of a school bus fleet to hydraulic hybrid powertrains designed to recover lost braking energy. Leamy said, "We expect our research will lead to cleaner, more efficient school buses that will help school districts like APS significantly reduce fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions."

Atlanta Public School officials are using the project to educate the next generation about green energy. "Our students are eager to learn about new ways to care for the environment," said Brian Mitchell, principal, Mary Lin Elementary. "The Green Eco School Bus turns a theoretical concept into a fun and exciting reality that stimulates their learning."

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boaters Urged to Slow Down, Watch Out for Sea Turtles and Manatees

Boat strikes are a common cause of sea turtle strandings and manatee injuries and deaths. Manatees and all sea turtle species found in Georgia are protected by federal and state laws.

Tips on what to watch for in the coast’s murky waters differ. A “footprint” of swirls may mark a 1-ton manatee underwater. A 300-pound loggerhead sea turtle may show only its head when it surfaces.
The best advice: Be aware, and be prepared to slow down or steer clear.

State Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Mark Dodd of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said that while sea turtles are considered common on the ocean side of barrier islands, they also frequent tidal waters. “Any time you’re in the salt marsh areas, that’s a place to look for turtles,” Dodd said.

Manatees drawn north by warming waters and abundant marsh grass and other vegetation are found in all Georgia tidal rivers, estuaries and near-shore marine waters, mostly east of Interstate 95. In recent weeks, natural resources biologist Clay George of the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section has heard about manatees, or sea cows, sighted near Kings Bay naval submarine base, around Jekyll Island and in the Ogeechee River.

George said heeding low-speed and no-wake zones will reduce collision risks. So will sticking to the main channels when boating in tidal rivers and creeks. He said manatees “are often right along the edge of the marsh,” feeding on Spartina alterniflora, or salt marsh cordgrass.

Boaters who hit a manatee or sea turtle are urged to stand-by and immediately contact the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Channel 16 or DNR at 800-2-SAVE-ME (800-272-8363). This provides biologists the best chance to help the animal and gather valuable scientific data. Boaters will not be charged if they were operating their boat responsibly and the collision was an accident.

Boaters and others are also encouraged to report any dead manatees and sea turtles they see. (If the turtle is tagged, include the tag color and number in the report if possible.) DNR monitors sea turtle and manatee mortality through the Marine Turtle and Marine Mammal Stranding and Salvage Networks. The information gleaned, including from necropsies to evaluate cause of death, provides the primary index for threats to sea turtles and marine mammals in coastal waters.

Dodd said 51 sea turtle strandings have been reported this year in Georgia, including 18 last week. The total is up compared to recent years, and may reflect an increase of turtles in coastal waters. Boat collisions accounted for nearly 30 percent of the strandings.

No manatee mortalities have been documented in Georgia so far this year. About 25 percent of manatee mortalities in Georgia waters are caused by boat collisions.

Sea turtle strandings online
Regular updates available at www.georgiawildlife.com/node/1325 (click the “Reported Strandings” box).

See a manatee?

If you see or photograph a healthy, injured or dead manatee, please contact DNR at (800) 2-SAVE-ME or (912) 269-7587. Please note the date, time, location and number of manatees seen, as well as the coordinates, if possible. Photographs of scars on their backs and tails are especially useful because they can often be used to identify previously known manatees.

Manatees occasionally gather in mating “herds.” These groups of males following a female in estrus can include as many as 20 manatees.

Taking care for manatees

Here are some other ways Georgia residents can help protect manatees:
Look around for manatees before cranking your boat’s motor.
Use caution when navigating in shallow water and along the edge of a marsh. Manatees cannot dive away from boats in these areas.
Please heed “slow speed,” “no wake” and manatee warning signs, especially around docks.
Wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare, making it easier to spot manatees below the surface.
Watch for large swirls in the water called footprints that may be caused by manatees diving away from the boat.
Dock owners should never feed manatees or give them fresh water. This could teach the animals to approach docks, putting them at greater risk of a boat strike.
Never pursue, harass or play with manatees. It is bad for the manatees and is illegal.

Help protect Georgia’s nongame wildlife

Help conserve endangered and other nongame wildlife through buying a bald eagle or ruby-throated hummingbird license plate, contributing to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund through the state income tax checkoff or donating directly to the fund. Each option provides vital support for the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for its mission to conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats.

Visit www.georgiawildlife.com for more information, or call Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Start Your (Golf Car) Engines

/PRNewswire/ -- Golf cars will be allowed on many local Georgia streets effective Jan. 1, 2012, thanks to a bill signed  by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal. Known as Georgia Senate Bill 240, it creates a new class of motor vehicle called personal transportation vehicles (PTVs), which are built on "golf car-like" chassis.

The measure will allow PTVs that meet safety requirements to be driven on roads. That means residents of many communities will be able to shop, take their children to school and parks, and run other errands in their golf cars.

"This bill will allow Georgia families to stretch their transportation dollars and use green energy for miles of local driving. It also gives municipalities throughout the state a common framework for the safe and responsible use of PTVs," says Michael Alexander, Club Car's director of global business development. Club Car is the world's largest manufacturer of small-wheel, zero-emissions electric vehicles.

Qualifications and Safety Standards

To qualify as a PTV, vehicles must have at least four wheels, weigh 1,375 pounds or less, have a top speed of 20 mph or less, and transport no more than eight people.

In addition, they must be equipped with specific safety apparatus, including:

* A braking system that is sufficient for the weight and passenger capacity, including a parking brake.
* A reverse warning device that is functional at all times when the directional control is in the reverse position.
* A main power switch. When the switch is in the "off" position, or the key or other activating device is removed, the motive power circuit must be inoperative. If the switch uses a key, it can be removable only in the "off" position.
* Head and tail lamps
* Reflex reflectors
* A horn
* A rearview mirror
* Safety warning labels
* Hip restraints and hand holds


Golf cars manufactured after 2004 generally have all, or most, of the required safety equipment. Your local Club Car dealer can upgrade your golf car to meet these standards, if needed. To find a dealer near you, visit www.clubcar.com and click "Dealer Locator."

According to Alexander, who also serves as president of the National Golf Car Manufacturers Association, he and other members will work with leaders of the Georgia Municipal Association to draft a model ordinance that defines licensing and usage guidelines. Please check with your municipality if you have questions about PTV usage in your community.

The bill does not apply to all-terrain vehicles or mobility aids, such as power wheelchairs and scooters.

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