Company Spotlight: VTX
Pennsylvania-based VTX continues to provide services for some of North America’s most noteworthy transit systems and landmarks.
Consulting firm Vertical Transportation Excellence (VTX®) is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2015 and is proud to have more than tripled its staff to 18 since it was founded in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as a division of Gannett Fleming, Inc. (GF).
After leading Syska & Hennessy’s Vertical Transportation Group, Patrick Welch struck out with current Senior Vice President Dave Hansen and three others in May 2000 to form VTX. In addition to employees, VTX has also added numerous noteworthy clients. When the company was first profiled in ELEVATOR WORLD in April 2010, major projects included consulting on the system for the World Trade Center (WTC) transit hub in New York City (NYC) and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in Washington, D.C. The company’s strong track record has continued with projects such as the vertical-transportation system of 1 WTC, which includes 71 elevators and 11 escalators. Welch opines:
“Soaring above [NYC] at 1,176 ft., 1WTC is America’s tallest building and [an NYC] landmark. The building’s success relies heavily on the proper installation and maintenance of the elevators and escalators that transport tenants to stops within its 104 floors. The elevators move at a speed of 2,000 fpm, making them some of the fastest in the Western Hemisphere.
“VTX continues to provide detailed inspections, test witnessing, field surveys and quality control/assurance services for installation of all units. As the number of completed floors increased throughout the building, hoists were removed. VTX kept pace with the interior elevator installation, working 16-hr. days to complete each inspection. Code-required testing ensures elevators run smoothly and safely, providing a comfortable ride for tenants and tourists.”
Being a division of global engineering firm GF enhances VTX’s efficiency. This association helped drive VTX’s dramatic increase in business utilizing Building Information Modeling designs for well over US$100 million in vertical-transportation contracts. Welch states:
“We have many clients replacing escalators or elevators within existing facilities. VTX can include GF architects [and] electrical, mechanical, structural and other engineering disciplines to design the complete scope required to modify, renovate or build as necessary for the project to advance with a minimum of discipline coordination issues.”
Performing work primarily in the U.S. and Canada, VTX reports it has kept all of its original clients and continually welcomes new ones in most major metropolitan areas in the U.S. Its projects have won numerous awards, including the American Public Transit Association’s first vertical-transportation Project of the Year award for the largest escalator modernization program in history; WMATA’s escalator modernization in 2006; EW’s Project of the Year in 2007 for the George Washington Bus Terminal in NYC; and 2012 for replacement of the escalators at Sky Train® in Terminal 4 of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). Customers include airport and transit authorities, government entities and retail operations. Repeat customers such as PHX and LAX are driving business in the Northeast and Southwest U.S., Welch observes. A recent notable project was modernization of the escalator system in Terminal 3 of PHX. Consisting of four units, the project was complex, involving such tasks as protecting US$2 million worth of artwork within the escalator hoistway throughout construction. Handling the job properly was critical, Welch observes, elaborating:
“Thousands of passengers rushing to catch flights pass through the terminal each day. The terminal’s four escalators operate 24/7 to help commuters move quickly through the terminal. VTX developed a design-build modernization program to maintain the aging escalators safety and reliability.”
The program called for VTX to perform detailed inspections and field surveys to determine whether replacement, overhaul or modernization was the best option. A passenger-load study evaluated traffic conditions to further define the system’s needs. After determining modernization was best, the firm developed a set of technical qualifications and requirements to identify design-build firms that could handle the project. Welch states:
“The firm worked closely with the design-build team to monitor compliance with critical schedule requirements and to optimize equipment performance. Detailed equipment inspections performed at [the ThyssenKrupp Elevator factory in Germany] prior to shipment, throughout installation and at turnover ensured equipment quality. Lastly, the firm reviewed structural loading throughout demolition and installation, and provided oversight compliance with critical schedule requirements to minimize disruptions to travelers.”
PHX has become a valued repeat client. Over the past decade, VTX has performed jobs related to replacements, new installations and modernizations there, notably the Sky Train automated people-mover system for which GF was the prime design engineering firm. That project won the National Engineering Excellence Award in 2014 from the American Council of Engineering Cos.
Services VTX provides include those related to design, renovation/modernization, inspection and survey/audit. In its quest for creative, effective solutions, VTX designed the ParametricoderTM and patented the Oculus Network®, which are used to this day. Developed in 2006 in response to the needs of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Parametricoder is a device that gathers technical data to create preventative-maintenance programs. It measures such things as acceleration, run and deceleration rates on escalators and moving walks.
Described by Welch as a “patented process,” Oculus Network was developed in 2000 in response to the needs of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority. It compiles and uses technical data to remotely monitor and maintain equipment such as elevators, escalators, pumps and fans. According to VTX, it “continues to be an effective open-source solution for public-sector clients.” Parimetricoder, meanwhile, is “in constant use on almost every escalator project VTX does.”
VTX is ISO 9001:2008 certified, and its specialists are active on several ASME A17.1 code committees. Word-of-mouth and repeat business have proven to be the best way to grow, Welch states. The economy is looking up, but there are challenges, such as a lack of competition in domestic escalator production. “Ineffective prentative maintenance is a growing concern for our clients,” Welch states, adding that proactive preventative maintenance is “one of the most challenging circumstances our clients face.”
Despite challenges, Welch is optimistic about VTX’s future. He says the company plans to “duplicate and expand on our success in major markets centered on helping solve complex problems for clients that place a high value on how reliably and safely they move people.”