Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART)

Commuter Rail System Planning


Growth in the areas of jobs and new residents in Marin and Sonoma, the two counties immediately north of San Francisco, has outstripped the area’s transportation resources.  Generally hilly terrain adds to the region’s attraction and beauty, but also inhibits opportunities for new or expanded highways.  U.S. 101 is the area’s only major freeway.

FS1-SMARTParalleling U.S. 101 is the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad line, now owned by the public and still intact, though currently unused.  Installation of a commuter rail service on the NWP line is a goal of the counties and cities, which have formed the Sonoma Marian Area Rail Transit (SMART) Commission to pursue development of a project.

LTK has assisted SMART with conceptual planning and preliminary engineering since 2001.  Our responsibilities included developing alternative service concepts and preparing an operating plan, identifying and screening a variety of locomotive-hauled and self-propelled vehicle options, and evaluating several alternative sites for a central operations and maintenance facility.

LTK staff prepared reports and presentations on these project elements, participating with SMART staff in a series of workshops with a Vehicle Alternatives Committee that evaluated and made recommendations considering the operating needs of the proposed line and the aspirations of the communities it would serve.

The result of this work was a project definition for the conduct of preliminary engineering, including these elements:

  • A 68-mile line with 12 stations
  • Morning and afternoon peak services at 30-minute intervals, plus one midday round trip
  • Six trains in service, with a fleet of 14 FRA-compliant diesel multiple unit (DMU) vehicles

With commitment and funding SMART could develop into an outstanding example of how DMUs can be used to recycle an old railroad line and make it relevant to the needs of people living and working in the 21st century.  LTK currently is assisting in system refinement work that will lead to completion of environmental documentation.  The firm’s work is in the areas of operations planning, vehicle alternatives reviews, and maintenance facility siting and functional design.

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Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA)

Rail Project

Denton and Carrollton, Texas

LTK is assisting the Denton County Transportation Authority’s (DCTA) efforts to bring a 21-mile rail passenger service between Denton and Carrollton, TX.  LTK’s support services cover the self-propelled diesel multiple unit (DMU) vehicle acquisition, operations, and signal system design. FS2-DCTAmap

The DCTA Rail project will connect Denton, TX with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit System (DART) light rail.  The newly constructed line utilizes a mixed corridor of infrequent freight rail service and rails-to-trail occupancy.  DCTA Rail has an across-the-platform connection with the DART Green Line, scheduled to open in December 2010, at Trinity Mills (one of DART’s Carrollton stations).  DCTA Rail has three stations in Lewisville and two stations in Denton.  Rail freight service will continue on the line between Carrollton and Lewisville with temporal separation.

DCTA Rail’s primary objective is increasing mobility into the Dallas Metro area through coordinating service with DART.  Thus, the system design foundation is light rail technology adapted to a modest passenger base on an FRA regulated rail line.  The resulting system concept is 20-minute bi-directional peak period service plus mid-day and evening service utilizing diesel multiple units.  LTK is supporting DCTA through the following tasks, focusing on cost-effective engineering solutions:

  • Provided passenger rail vehicle technology review encompassing new and second-hand self propelled vehicle choices.
  • Developed new vehicle procurement technical specifications.
  • Assisted DCTA in the development of procurement documents and manufacturer negotiations.
  • Completed the signal system design to eliminate schedule delays due to meets and incorporate over 40 road crossing installations.
  • Developed an operating plan for the varying train performance characteristics of interim and new vehicles.
  • Guided passing siding locations and length to minimize running time delays and minimize vehicle fleet.
  • Assisted in vehicle maintenance facility design, advising on recommended support equipment, space requirements, and layout.


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GRTC Transit System

Downtown Richmond Streetcar

Richmond, Virginia

In 1888 in Richmond, Virginia, Frank Julian Sprague’s Richmond Union Passenger Railway Company placed into revenue service the world’s first truly successful electric streetcar system.  Wishing to recapture that element of its history and adapt it to contemporary needs, the GRTC Transit System commissioned a Phase 1 study for a Downtown Richmond Streetcar to link the central business district, state capitol, and office complex with the city’s convention center and immediately adjacent neighborhoods housing restaurants and other leisure-oriented venues.FS3-GRTC

LTK, as part of a multi-firm project team, was responsible for operations planning, conceptualization and costing of vehicles and systems for the planned vintage streetcar line.  In addition, LTK assisted the team in identifying and screening several alternative alignments and route patterns (straight line, loop/rectangle, “L”), developed estimates of streetcar fleet size, developed conceptual designs for fixed systems and a maintenance facility, and prepared estimates of initial capital and ongoing operating and maintenance costs.

The outcome of the study was a recommendation to carry two route alternatives into a second phase of more detailed evaluation.  Recognizing Richmond’s unique place in the historic development of street railways, it is envisioned that the system would be operated with heritage streetcars, defined as new vehicles designed to the appearance of historic streetcars.


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TRAIL - The Regional Area Initial Link

Proposed Streetcar for Woodward Avenue

Detroit, Michigan

FS4-DetroitLTK is assisting TPC, LLC in developing a conceptual design for the modern streetcar line proposed to be constructed on Woodward Avenue by private interest.  The line would extend 3.4 miles from the Hart Plaza, through the central business district, Foxtown/Stadium District, the Medical Center and Wayne State University to the New Center at Grand Boulevard.  The line, initially offering urban circulator service, may also serve as the inner end of a future light rail line extending farther out Woodward Avenue.

In autumn 2008, LTK provided technical review and commentary on an earlier report prepared by others, the Woodward Transit Catalyst Project, confirming aspects of that work which were sound, and suggesting alternatives in the areas of system design and operating plan where initial assumptions needed to be modified or updated.  LTK also developed conceptual designs for three alternative alignment s through downtown Detroit, between Grand Circus and Jefferson Boulevard, as well as a streetcar storage and maintenance facility for up to 15 revenue vehicles.



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