Scott Shenk writes about transportation issues affecting Fredericksburg-area residents.
VRE board to talk Wi-Fi, security cameras, Spotsy station this week
The Virginia Railway Express Operations Board will take up a few issues this week riders might be interested in: Security, Wi-Fi and the Spotsylvania station and third track.
First, the brief update on the Spotsylvania station and third track notes that everything appears to be going well with the third track, which is on schedule to be finished by the end of 2013. There is no mention of a completion date for the station. The board will talk about it at Friday’s meeting.
On the security front, VRE wants to have cameras set up at four stations, including Fredericksburg’s. There already are security cameras at numerous Northern Virginia VRE stations. The cameras “would be placed on and around train station platforms so that VRE can capture operational and customer activity from the headquarters office,” according to the VRE report for this week’s agenda.
Fredericksburg’s station will get four cameras at a cost of $56,169. A Homeland Security grant covers most of the cost.
The board will vote Friday on a vendor to do the work.
On the Wi-Fi front, VRE has considered having the technology added to trains and stations for some time. This week’s agenda mentions four possible technologies VRE could use, with the preferred one being routers. This issue is not slated for a vote. It is only listed as a discussion item.
For organizations without WiMax or satellite infrastructure already in place, the least costly method to providing wireless communication is a router device that will allow CDMA cards running 3G/4G/LTE cellular services as the Internet source. CDMA routers can currently hold up to 16 CDMA cards subscribed to the same or multiple service providers and can provide redundancy and high availability of services. When signal strength and bandwidth are reduced, the card with the best signal takes over providing service. For VRE train stations, a router with 2 to 4 CDMA cards subscribed to the provider with the best service in that area should be sufficient. For VRE rolling stock, where signals vary due to train movement, 8 to 10 mixed cards from different providers should enable continued wireless communication services.
The CDMA router would be installed in the cab car. Each trailer would require an access point for communication with the router. The access points would provide the wireless signal to the receiving devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc). A caching media server would also work with the router to enable cached content that is accessed by multiple customers at the same time. Since the data is cached or saved in the media server, repeated attempts to download the same data is unnecessary, reserving bandwidth resources for new content such as VPN and corporate secure connections.
Guest Internet with Multimedia
Wireless communication will allow VRE passengers to surf the Internet and access corporate email and files. Additionally, access to low-bandwidth content, such as news and other daily tickers will be allowed. However, large video and audio files that require constant streaming over the Internet will be restricted to maximize the available bandwidth. In order for VRE passengers to enjoy some video and music content, customers will be able to connect to a limited selection of video and music media content that will be uploaded to a media server during non-service hours. This will help reduce the utilization of bandwidth and reserve usage of bandwidth to customers accessing corporate resources and web content that do not require high data streams.
Cost –The following cost estimates are based on pricing for the entire VRE fleet provided by router vendors with Verizon as the Internet Service Provider (as of June 2011).
Total Infrastructure Cost – $1.434 M (non-recurring)
Routers — $630,000
Access Points — $504,000
Network Operating Center — $100,000
Installation — $200,000
Total Annual cost — $230,000
ISP Annual Subscription — $70,000
Equipment Annual Maintenance – $160,000
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