A Case of Space

Redeveloping the urban landscape – 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, Pennsylvania.

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 eleven buses – at one time. Only 1 acre of space was available on the selected site.

A Conventional Solution

Brinjac Engineering was the engineering firm chosen to tackle this challenging project. Calling on an array of land development experience, Brinjac Engineering worked with the RRTA through a number of sketches to meet their need for eleven buses to be able to park and drive simultaneously and safely on the one 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 ten foot 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 eleven 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 we knew 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 eleven buses on 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.


Beyond Conventional

Frustrated with the previous results, Brinjac Engineering turned to Transoft Solutions’ AutoTURN. The AutoTURN software simulates vehicle swept-path movements. The flexible software did not limit us to using a preset “standard bus” instead, it enabled us to design custom buses based on vehicle size, wheel spacing and axle length. We 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, we were able to check it with the software in a matter of moments. The software also allowed us unimagined presentation ability and ease of saving copies of the test runs we performed. Each style of bus could be presented in a different color, showing a clear picture to the client. It also worked seamlessly with our Autodesk CAD software, giving us the full ability to save and edit our 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, as precision was to the hundredths of a decimal. As a final result we gained 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.

Case Closed

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 eleven buses instead boasts eleven 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 and with the right software you may find that you already have all the space you need.


Contact Information.

Transoft Solutions Inc.

250 - 13575 Commerce Parkway
Richmond, BC, V6V 2L1

tele: 1.604.244.8387
fax: 1.604.244.1770

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