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Reducing our carbon footprint by developing rail systems

Governing Magazine / flickr

With increasing concerns over climate change, nations are looking toward new ways to generate and use energy that reduce mankind’s carbon footprint.
One way to accomplish that goal is through developing different means of transportation. Increased use of public transportation, including passenger rail travel, means less consumption of fuel.

In the United States, development of light rail service has been a focus in urban areas. There are significant advantages to having a highly developed light rail system within a large metropolitan area. For example, it results in less congestion on roads within the city. Light rail is a safer way to travel. And, for the most part, light rail gets people from Point A to Point B quicker.
Increased use of light rail and other modes of public transportation reduce the amount of gasoline used for transportation. That, in turn, reduces harmful emissions that contribute to climate change. The American Public Transportation Association reports that U.S. public transportation use saves 865 million hours in travel time and 450 million gallons of fuel in 498 urban areas.
While the advantages are significant, the costs of developing light rail are substantial. The cost of most light rail systems ranges from $15 million to $100 million per mile. By comparison, a freeway expansion typically costs $1 million to $8.5 million per lane mile for two directions. While road projects typically are done in rural areas and suburbs, light rail projects are done in urban areas where right of way and property acquisition is expensive.
The U.S. also is devoting attention to developing high-speed rail to connect metropolitan areas. The nation remains behind some European and Asian countries in developing high-speed rail, but increased funding commitment by federal, state and local governments, as well as private companies point to likelihood that more high-speed rail service will become available in the United States. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorized distribution of $8 billion for high-speed rail projects in the United States. 
The California High-Speed Rail Authority is leading development and operation of the first high-speed rail system in the nation. By 2029, the system will run from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours at speeds capable of exceeding 200 mph. The authority eventually wants to extend the system to Sacramento and San Diego, totaling 800 miles and 24 stations. The authority also is working with regional partners to implement a statewide rail modernization plan that will invest billions of dollars to upgrade local and regional systems to meet the state’s 21st century transportation needs.
High-speed trains typically operate at speeds of 124 mph to 155 mph. High-speed trains normally run on standard gauge tracks of continuously welded rail on grade-separated right-of-way that incorporates a wider turning radius in the design. They can run on existing track, but those rail lines must be specially upgraded to accommodate greater speed. 
Considering the scope of these projects, and the reluctance by some to not commit public resources, the need for efficiencies is great. geoAMPS, a technology company in the Columbus, OH, area, offers software solutions that can save 35 percent in project costs.
The company developed rxrAMPS to address the needs of rail projects and assets. rxrAMPS streamlines the process of handing mass transportation projects by managing them through intuitive software connected to a centralized Web-based repository of project and organizational information.
The Web platform’s dashboard-focused interface provides organization users easy and secure access to the database. Existing project and organizational information can be quickly retrieved. That information can be edited, approved and uploaded into the system with an audit trail of any changes. In this way, the software becomes a tool for process standardization, which greatly enhances project efficiency. The software also streamlines employee training and facilitates institutional knowledge retention from experienced workers at or approaching retirement to their less experienced replacements.
Through rxrAMPS, the project team can manage and monitor tract and property ownership information, permitting, business rules, access roads, well sites, and land rights negotiations. The software provides document management and can automatically generate reports, and notifications and alerts for workflow and inspections.
rxrAMPS comes with powerful budgeting tools for title work, surveying, property appraisal, land acquisition, and research. It can automatically track payments, assist with property management and provide information important in the process of relocation, should that be necessary to advance the rail project.
Before construction of high-speed rail or light rail projects begins, property rights of way must be acquired and accounted for. That can be a time- and labor-intensive process, tying up organizational resources and possibly delaying the project for which substantial sums of public or private dollars are committed.
The geoAMPS solution can make the process of acquiring and monitoring right of way go as smooth as possible. Industry-specific software provides right-of-way agents and project planners the most up-to-date information on individual tracts and property negotiations. With the added tools of geographic information systems (GIS) mapping and an easy-to-navigate project dashboard that accesses a central repository of data, essential land rights tasks can be completed with greater efficiency than in the past.
geoAMPS introduced mobile technology within the land rights and infrastructure assets industries. Through rxrAMPS, right of way agents and project representatives can utilize this state-of-the-art, time-saving capability. Although they are away from their office and desktop computer, mobile technology allows them to stay connected with the centralized database. By using a smartphone, laptop or mobile device, they can update project information and ensure everyone involved in the project has the most current information.
rxrAMPS’ optional detached platform even allows workers in remote locations to stay connected when Internet access is lost or unreliable. With the push of a button, the information can be synced into the system once a reliable connection is restored.
Tracts within the project can be viewed through GIS mapping. This sophisticated mapping capability provides an intuitive geospatial view of the project area. With color-coded maps and layers, GIS provides project planners important information about land use, existing infrastructure, tract boundaries, topography and more.
Expanding rail systems in the U.S. to address climate change requires a large commitment of public and private resources. Through the efficiencies it makes possible, geoAMPS is providing software solutions that can reduce project costs.
Dan Liggett is Communications and Public Relations Manager at geoAMPS, a technology company in the Columbus, OH, area that specializes in software solutions to manage land rights and infrastructure assets. For more information, call 614-389-4871 or Check out the new Canadian version of the geoAMPS website,

This article also appears in:
Renewable Energy World

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