ELMIRA, N.Y. -- Earlier this week, those closely following the progress of Cincinnati Streetcar got a sneak peek at the real deal -- not just CGI mock-ups and renderings that, while vivid previews of what's to come, can leave one feeling like the streetcar is still just a dream.
Well, no more.
While city leaders' gears continue to grind over components of the project -- most recently, how to best select an operations manager for the streetcar -- construction appears to be full-steam ahead on the cars that passengers will eventually board and ride, come September 2016.
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One of the streetcar's biggest advocates gave us a peek on Monday:
Cincinnati streetcar vehicle under construction in Elmira NY, opens for passenger service on September 15, 2016 pic.twitter.com/swDF9SFRQO— John Schneider (@prostreetcar) May 11, 2015
Cincinnati streetcar vehicle under construction in Elmira NY, opens for passenger service on September 15, 2016 pic.twitter.com/swDF9SFRQO
John Schneider, who shared the photo on Monday, has been involved in Cincinnati Streetcar advocacy since the project's beginning and is often credited as its proverbial "forefather."
The city contracted CAF USA, out of Elmira, New York, to construct the light rail vehicles. CAF has also built light rail units for Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Sacramento, two Amtrak units and are currently constructing cars for a Kansas City light rail system.
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According to Schneider, Cincinnati Streetcar currently holds the first two slots on CAF's assembly lines.
Even more noteworthy, though, Schneider said Cincinnati will be the first city in the western hemisphere to employ this specific light rail vehicle model, the Urbos LRV.
Schneider said the most notable feature of the new design is that the cars are 100 percent "low floor" -- in other words, there is no step up into the car, but the floor of the car sits evenly with the ground.
"It's like a moving sidewalk, in a sense," Schneider said.
This increases accessibility, Schneider added, in that it makes boarding more wheelchair-friendly, in addition to allowing easy access with luggage, a grocery cart, or a bicycle, for example.
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According to the city, the cars' construction must comply with the federal Buy America program, which requires the vehicles be produced with at least 60% domestic parts and that final assembly takes place in the United States.
All told, CAF will produce five dual-direction cars, which, according to Schneider, can hold as many as 100-150 passengers at once.
Schneider said Cincinnati Streetcar expects to see the first of its vehicles delivered to Cincinnati by September 2015, with the remaining to be delivered by the end of the year.
Then it's months of testing, both in the shop and in the field.
"You'll see empty streetcars driving around the city for a few months," he said, as drivers train and test the vehicles' safety, a vetting process that will most likely include involvement from the Federal Transportation Administration, Schneider said.
Schneider also said that infrastructure construction for the OTR span of the streetcar has completed, with the final tracks being laid and wires being hung on 12th St, while construction downtown carries on.