The MTA Metro-North Railroad (NY) train that derailed on Sunday had a system designed to keep its engineer alert, a source told Reuters, but the system was not installed in the same car as the engineer.
The source said that Metro-North trains have a safety feature designed to alert distracted or fatigued engineers. When the train is in motion, an alert sounds every 25 seconds unless the engineer makes some adjustment to the throttle or controller to indicate that he or she is alert. But the safety system was located in the locomotive in the rear of the train and not in the control cab in front of the first passenger car where the engineer was operating the train. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity during the investigation, said that trains using this push-pull configuration were not usually equipped with the driver alert system at both ends of the train.
A former Metro-North manager confirmed the general set-up but did not have any information about the specifics of the train that crashed. “I know the locomotive end would have had to have this touch system, but I don’t know the model of the car so I can’t say for sure whether or not it was equipped with the system,” Michael McLendon, a recently retired assistant director of Metro-North’s shops and facilities team, told Reuters.
Federal investigators would not comment on the train’s safety features during the ongoing investigation. Link to full story in Chicago Tribune.
Photo credit: Patrick Cashin /MTA via MTAPhotos/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Imagine staring out the window of your bus and suddenly you see a vision of your city as it used to be — maybe a framed picture pops up, showing a mansion that once graced the street, or a virtual locomotive chugs by on long-abandoned tracks.
Dutch designer Ilse Heesterbeek wants people to interact with local history as they ride the bus, and she created the project History Travels With You for her thesis at Eindhoven Design Academy. Heesterbeek would equip buses with transparent touchscreen smart windows; text, graphics, video, and interactive buttons would allow riders to visualize the history of their surroundings. The windows would use GPS to synchronize the display with specific locations.
“The design gives bus passengers the opportunity to see the contrasts or similarities between the history of a place and the current situation of the location itself, and to discover links themselves,” Heesterbeek said. The project lets riders become tourists in their own city, she added. “Not to long nostalgically for the past, but to take the stories with you in your journey, and to understand and read the environment as it now appears, so that you feel more connected with this environment.” Link to full story in Co.Design.
Image source: Ilse Heeserbeeck via Co.Design
TransLink (BC) is facing criticism for plans to expand its natural gas bus fleet while the agency is struggling to provide other services.
“You’re moving into a product, doing an experimental change and making these kinds of expansions when you’re in the position where you can’t expand service,” Barnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said to TransLink spokesman Bob Paddon at Metro Vancouver’s transportation committee. “Someone has got to be looking after this money.” Corrigan said that CNG vehicles are less flexible than diesel buses and non compatible with the trolley fleet.
“We’re trying to keep up with this and we’re the ones responsible for the allocation funds,” Corrigan said. “I don’t think anyone here understands where the money is going.” He added that TransLink has previously changed its mind on major expenditures.
Paddon said that TransLink has had CNG buses for 20 years and that the technology is “now coming into its own.” He said that CNG buses are less expensive to maintain than diesel and TransLink saves about $25,000 per bus in fuel compared to conventional buses. Link to full story in The Vancouver Sun.
credit: Atomic Taco/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Observers are asking whether positive train technology could have prevented Sunday’s train derailment in New York City. Investigators have determined that the MTA Metro-North Railroad train was traveling at 82 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone just before it crashed on a sharp turn. It is not yet known whether the accident resulted from mechanical problems or human error, but officials are calling for new safety measures.
Congress has required railroads to install crash-avoidance technology by the end of 2015, but industry representatives are lobbying for more time because of the high costs of deployment. “This incident, if anything, heightens the importance of additional safety measures, like that one,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), referring to the Congressional mandate for PTC. “I’d be very loath to be more flexible or grant more time.”
“A properly installed PTC system would have prevented this train from crashing,” former Federal Railroad Administration official Steve Ditmeyer told the Associated Press. “If the engineer would not have taken control of slowing the train down, the PTC system would have.”
Metro-North was already taking steps to install crash-avoidance technology when the accident occured. Last month, the MTA awarded a $428 million contract to Siemens Rail Automation and Bombardier Transportation Rail Control Solutions to install a PTC system on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road. Link to full story in Boston.com.
Update: The train engineer reportedly said he was in a “daze” just before the derailment.
Photo credit: Susan Mara Bregman