“This would be paradise if it weren’t for the traffic”

A streetcar in Portland, made by Siemens

A streetcar in Portland, made by Siemens

I had the opportunity Friday to interview Ken Cornelius and Richard Palmieri of Siemens.  I know, you are thinking, “Ben, you have your own blog where you write about business stuff.  This is a culture blog where we talk about pandas and Cartoon Network.  What is wrong with you?”  Surprisingly, I have also resisted the opportunity to make immature jokes.  If you ask James, you’ll know how hard that was for me.  So what gives?

The thing is, I know you guys care about transportation in Atlanta, and that issues like the BeltLine and the Peachtree Streetcar are important.  Ken is the CEO of Siemens One, and Rich is the regional Sales Manager for Siemens Industry.  These are the folks that actually make the streetcars that are going in every city except Atlanta.

Ken is very involved with the Chamber of Commerce and lobbying the state for transportation funding.  Rich seems to have encyclopedic knowledge of streetcar technology.  They both work here in the Atlanta region despite the fact that we have no streetcars here – Siemens employs about 600 folks in Alpharetta where they make the power supply systems for all the streetcars the build.

My first question was about overhead wires, which got Rich rolling about some of the technology they have in development.  In the audio, Rich is the one that talks louder and quicker.  I’m the guy going, “uh, um,” the whole time.

Q1 – Overhead lines

The rest of the interview is after the jump.Next, we talked a bit about the flexibility of their designs.  Ken talks a bit here about the economic and quality of life benefits of streetcars.

Q2 – Design flexibility

We talked a bit about all the ways for streetcars to be used within a city, including commuter lines. this includes perhaps my favorite line from the interview, “This would be paradise if it wasn’t for the traffic.”

Q3 – Commuter streetcars

The most interesting part for folks following the political season follies was when we talked about the challenges of getting streetcar actually going here in Atlanta.  Ken talked at length about his own work lobbying folks in the Legislature, and he seemed optimistic about the prospects of getting some sort of funding law passed this year.

Q4 – Challenges for Atlanta

We talked briefly about what it costs to build a streetcar line, and you’ll hear Lawrence Gellerstedt jump in for a minute.  He’s a PR guy at Jackson Spalding who was helping out with the interview, and is pretty familiar with that Atlanta streetcar plans – so he is the guy who jumps in talking about right-of-way.

Q5 – Costs

We talked a bit more about how modern streetcars differ from older streetcars.

Q6 – New vs. old technology

And then we moved on to talk about some of the design flexibility for how streetcars look.  Basically, the operations side can be totally separate from the “look” of a streetcar – a sleek modern looking car has the same guts as something designed to fit into a historic neighborhood.  Something that Rich told me after we were done with the audio portion is that the exact same car used for an in-traffic urban system can go up to about 60 mph on a dedicated rail line freed from the street.

Q7 – Design flexibility 2

Finally, I gave Ken a chance to wrap up the interview with some final thoughts.

Q8 – Ken Cornelius – final words

1 Comment so far

  1. HistoryJoe (unregistered) on January 26th, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

    Outstanding job. Thanks for putting this together. The only concern I had was the overhead wires and they addressed that with a great solution. Thanks again

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