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Industry Firsts

Your needs change as your organization changes; so why should your design team’s approach be stagnant? Thinking outside the box is a daily responsibility – and privilege – at MDG. We’ve become known for designing industry firsts; ideas that were first to the market and have now become industry standards. But we don’t design these “firsts” in a vacuum. We work with clients, partners, manufacturers, and contacts outside the transit industry to come up with tailored solutions that fit client needs. And if it works for a client, it will probably get noticed. So our industry firsts raise the bar across all maintenance facility design standards – that’s good for you and your clients alike.

They include the following:


Continuous Strip LED Lighting Along Pit Rails
Expo Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility, Santa Monica, CA

Traditional lighting in pits can translate to inconsistently lit areas, resulting in both bright spots and dark shadows. MDG developed a new way to light this area, using strip LED lighting in the lower level work area along posted rail. We worked with lighting vendors and designers to apply a solution that was not originally intended for this application, but works better than conventional lighting solutions. This reduces obstructions between rail support columns and provides even lighting levels along the entire length of the underside of rail vehicles.


    • Provides brighter, more even, and more consistent light for maintenance tasks
    • Reduces obstructions in the work area
    • Saves money with LED technology

Upper Level Work Platform 
Expo Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility, Santa Monica, CAUpper Level Work Platform

Upper level work platforms (uplewops) provide access to the roofs of light rail vehicles (LRV) to perform maintenance on roof-top components. Traditionally, the design of these platforms required technicians to don cumbersome safety harnesses and clip on and off structurally supported life lines. The single-sided platforms required costly removable railing systems that were both unwieldy and often created other safety issues and lower productivity.

Seeing the need for a better work environment, MDG re-engineered the uplewop to make it more convenient, efficient, and safer. After research and discussions with rail maintenance technicians and supervisors, MDG developed a design that lets technicians freely service vehicle roof tops while also providing added safety features. The design provides a platform on both sides and eliminates platform edge railings allowing unfettered access only when a LRV is in position. Safety gates on each end are interlocked with lock-out/tag-out to ensure gates are closed when catenary power is off and open when catenary power is on. Stairs and lifts are strategically located between the lower level work areas (lolewas), main floor level, and uplewops. Lock-out/tag-out stations are positioned in a common area to ensure controlled access to the uplewops.


    • Eliminates initial cost, ongoing handling, and safety issues of cumbersome railings
    • Increases flexibility in accessing uplewops
    • Increases efficiency through unfettered access to the entire roof area of the vehicle
    • Boosts productivity by eliminating time to don harnesses and clip on/off of safe lines
    • Ensures greater safety for maintenance technicians and supervisors

In-Ground Parking Area LED Lighting
LA Metro Division 13 Bus Maintenance Facility, Los Angeles, CA

Standard light poles can cast shadows and leave dark spots between buses, creating hazards in the bus parking area. MDG researched lighting configurations used in other industries and worked with lighting designers and fixture manufacturers to come up with a solution. We applied LED technology in a new way, embedding in-ground lighting in areas both around and between the buses. This lighting exceeds code requirements and offers a bright environment in areas overhead lights can’t – between the buses where employees walk. While the design has yet to be implemented, it will provide better-than-required light levels while eliminating standard light poles and the hazards that come with them.


    • Provides code-required lighting
    • Provides a safer, more evenly-lit work environment
    • Eliminates obstructions caused by standard light poles
    • Increases the flexibility for alternative parking schemes and bus circulation
    • Saves energy costs due to LED technology
    • Reduces maintenance costs
    • Eliminates light pole-related accidents
    • Eliminates the need to rent lifts to replace aerial light fixtures

100 Percent Drive-Through 250-Bus Maintenance Facility
City of Phoenix West Transit Facility, Phoenix, AZ

Bus facilities have typically been designed with drive-in/back-out or back-in/pull-out maintenance bays. Staff and drivers have to regularly back large vehicles in tight and busy areas, and congestion and safety issues abound.

During the design-build competition for this project, the client asked for innovative concepts to improve operational efficiency and safety. MDG proposed and designed a center bus circulation aisle and overhead doors at the front of each repair bay. This eliminated all backing movements. The result: a 100 percent drive-through facility – the first of its kind for a 250-bus maintenance facility.


    • Increases circulation efficiency
    • Simplifies the movement of buses in and out of bays, on and off lifts, and over the lower level work areas
    • Increases staff and driver productivity
    • Decreases circulation-related accidents

Use of VLMs in U.S. Transit Maintenance Facility
UTA Lovendahl Light Rail Maintenance Facility

The traditional method for storing parts in maintenance facilities had been on shelving units and pallet racks. European manufacturers designed a Vertical Lift Module (VLM), which stores the equivalent of 150 to 200 shelving units in a 100 square foot area. Using the VLM, the parts clerk has to walk only 10 feet to retrieve nearly any part, compared with hundreds of feet through a maze of shelving units in a traditional parts storage area. MDG introduced the use of the VLM at this facility and it has quickly become a standard in most facility designs, particularly when space is limited.


    • Significantly decreases the amount of space needed for storing parts
    • Reduces parts retrieval time
    • Increases staff productivity
    • Improves inventory control

Mezzanine Elevation Independent of Light Rail Vehicle Roof Height
RTD Elati Light Rail Transit Maintenance Facility, Denver, CO

During tours of facilities around the country with RTD staff, we noticed that most spaces beneath mezzanines featured very low overhead clearance. The problem was created because designers had tied the height of the mezzanine to the height of the light rail vehicle. This significantly compromised workflow throughout the facilities.

MDG worked with RTD to develop a different approach. We defined the clearance requirements between the first and second floors, established the upper work platform height based on the height of the vehicle, and then bridged the difference with a short run of stairs to the upper work platform. With this design, all types of equipment, even a forklift, can circulate beneath the mezzanine. Not only does this provide more space, but it also saves money because standard, rather than low-clearance design and systems can be used.


    • Creates more usable space below the mezzanine
    • Eliminates cost associated with low-clearance mechanical, electrical, and structural designs
    • Enables use of standard storage systems
    • Results in fewer coordination issues during construction

Single Floor Elevation in Lower Level Work Area of Service and Inspection
RTD Elati Light Rail Transit Maintenance Facility, Denver, CO

Traditionally, floor elevation has been designed deeper inside the posted rail than outside it. This means technicians have to walk the full length of the pit to cross the posted rail. In addition, space constraints require stairs between the rails that are non-compliant and, though exceptions can be granted, this creates a safety risk.

To remedy the situation, MDG designed a single floor elevation in the lower level work area, along with code-compliant stairs between the rails. A level floor means you can roll equipment under the lower level work area. And technicians can duck under the rail without having to walk to the end of the pit. Overall, it’s a safer, more flexible, and more efficient configuration for performing service and inspection work.


    • Increases safety
    • Creates a more usable and flexible work space
    • Improves technician productivity

All Levels Materials Lift
RTD Elati Light Rail Transit Maintenance Facility, Denver, CO

In many facilities, it’s been difficult and expensive to get materials to the floors where they are needed or used. Facilities had to install a long, costly ramp to reach lower levels and use forklifts or cranes for upper work platforms.

MDG found a way to change that situation, using a materials lift, commonly found in bus parts rooms, to replace the ramps, forklifts, and cranes. The materials lift can be designed to reach any work level of the service and inspection area. It’s less expensive and takes up less space than a formed concrete ramp. Moving materials up is much simpler. Technicians just roll materials onto the lift versus hooking up a harness, moving railings, and double-checking all safety precautions as required when using a crane or forklift. And moving materials down is much safer, as technicians don’t have to fight the pull of gravity, which can become particularly risky when moving heavy materials.


    • Saves construction costs
    • Frees up valuable facility floor area
    • Saves time on everyday tasks
    • Increases employee safety

Wheel Truing Bay Redesign
RTD Elati Light Rail Transit Maintenance Facility, Denver, CO

Wheel truing is a critical part of maintenance, yet most facilities have historically housed this function in separate buildings that are big enough to house only the wheel truing lathe. This means a portion of the LRV often extends outside the building during the truing function. This leads to problems for many facility operations.

Instead of perpetuating a less-then-optimal situation, MDG attached the wheel truing area to the main building without blocking circulation within the facility. Keeping the car inside the building allows technicians to close the doors so the elements and extreme temperatures don’t affect the work environment. The LRV doesn’t have to be moved from one building to another and work can continue around it seamlessly. This solution also means the function can be more closely supervised and enables the space to be used for other activities when not needed for wheel truing.


    • Increases service productivity
    • Maintains efficient circulation within the facility
    • Enables closer supervision of the truing function
    • Extends the operating life of an expensive piece of equipment
    • Saves energy
    • Creates a healthier work environment

Combined Overhead Catenary System/Light Pole
RTD Elati LRT Maintenance Facility

When both catenary poles and light poles are present in a rail yard, it can create a complex and expensive environment. MDG developed a solution that smoothly combines the two and is efficient and cost-effective. By strategically locating poles that serve dual purposes, and selecting appropriate light fixtures mounted at an effective height, MDG was able to implement a solution typically not achievable.


    • Creates a neater, more efficient yard
    • Decreases obstructions
    • Provides more flexibility for rail yard operations





Lower Level Work Area/Mobile Lift Work Platform
Long Beach Transit 68th Street Bus Facility, Long Beach, CA

Pits, as they have aptly been referred to in the past, have not been safe, well-lit, nor versatile spaces. The lower level work area (lolewa) concept provides a code-compliant “basement area” equipped with a mobile lift work platform. Individuals can adjust the position and height of the work platform as they need for their comfort. This enables a technician of any height to work on any area beneath a low floor or standard floor bus. Lighting attached to the lift travels with the lift, ensuring that the work area is always well lit.

MDG developed the concept and worked with the manufacturer to design the lift. The lolewa means shorter employees don’t have to balance on buckets or stepstools to reach their work areas, while taller employees don’t have to strain their necks, backs, and knees trying to reach theirs. Instead, they can adjust the lolewa to a proper height for a safe working environment.


    • Increases workforce flexibility, enabling individuals of any height to fill technician roles
    • Ensures a consistently well-lit work area
    • Creates a more comfortable work environment
    • Reduces accidents and injuries