So Denver’s got a very extensive rail system they’re putting together right now. In the early planning stages, it was imagined to be mostly Light Rail, with a couple of traditional diesel loco-hauled, peak-oriented commuter rail lines extending into the northern reaches of the Denver metro. But as costs rose, the transit agency decided to switch two of the LRT lines to FRA-compliant EMU. This would allow the same acceleration/deceleration profile as LRT, but without requiring grade separation where the line crosses industrial spurs and other freight trackage.
Meanwhile, in the East, SEPTA was writing up a detailed spec for their new Regional Rail EMU, to be called the Silverliner V. The SEPTA spec sent east coast transit geeks into fits of apoplexy, as it ruled out existing FRA-compliant EMU designs from Bombardier and Kawasaki, among others. SEPTA was demanding a “custom design” that “no one else would want,” or so went conventional blog and forum wisdom.
Back in Denver, DTP, the Fluor-lead consortium building the rail lines, had tapped Hyundai-Rotem as a rolling stock vendor. In 2006, SEPTA awarded the Silverliner V contract to… Hyundai-Rotem. And so it was that Philadelphia came to design Denver’s trains for them.
Was it a good choice? Well, the Silverliner V’s certainly have swank acceleration. As this video shows, the V’s can easily match the 3.0 mphps service accel common to most Siemens LRVs.
On the other hand, if Fluor’s renderings are to be believed, Denver commuters will now be subject to the pure, unadulterated evil of three across seating. This is a disease which had heretofore been tightly confined to the northeast. Even other old-line Yankee systems don’t have three-across. Metra doesn’t have three-across. MARC bilevels don’t have three-across. For decades, the plague of three-across has been quarantined at Newark.
But if Denver rolls with three-across, who knows what might happen? Other New Starts systems in the Mountain West might take notice, spreading three-across to SLC’s Frontrunner or ABQ’s Rail Runner. Phoenix might pick three-across EMUs when they rebuild the Papago into a multi-modal corridor. From there, three-across seating might spread east along IH-10, infecting San Antonio and, yes, Houston. Three-across to Webster! Three-across to Missouri City!
Folks, we are looking at some potential Andromeda Strain type shit here. To prevent a contagion that could potentially wipe out the entire country, or at least our ability to ride commuter trains in comfort, it is imperative that the Denver EMUs be delivered with two-across seating. Call your representatives. Call your Embassy. Occupy DTP! (note this nice bulb-out in front of their offices – room for 6-8 tents there, easy). Whatever you do, let’s keep the scourge of three-across confined to the Northeast.