Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Invest In Some Post It Notes!

Yesterday, the Washington Post's story about how some Metro operators, particularly on eight-car trains, are opening doors before the train is all the way in the station caused quite a stir.
It's amazing that a train conductor can't operate the trains well enough to consistently stop in the same spot, and it's friggin' dumbfounding that an operator--someone who's job it is to drive a train and is responsible for hundreds of lives--could forget how many cars were on his/her train!
As we mentioned when this topic surfaced a couple months ago, we've been on many subway systems where the location of the doors is marked ON THE PLATFORM. That's how precise they are.
The reason other systems are able to operate this way is because they've invested in reliable "Automatic Train Control" systems. Basically, autopilot for trains.
Metro has deployed ATC, but according to the Post's Robert Thompson, there "are lots of hiccups in our system."
Guess so!
So when will Metro get this problem fixed?
Here's what they had to say.
"We are now in the process of installing new computer software that will allow 8-car trains to run with precision stopping. With 1,116 rail cars, this will take a few months. Once it is done, we will begin running the trains in automatic. Even with this new software, it will not mean that all trains will run in automatic all the time.
We will always run in manual when there is a track maintenance, inclement weather, extremely crowded platforms etc.
Also, to keep operators current on manual mode operation, there is a requirement to run trains manually on a regular basis."
While we wait for Metro to field the latest ATC, we recommend an investment in some sticky notes. When a driver begins a shift, they could count the cars, write it down on the sticky note and leave it on the dashboard for future reference. We're not being flip here. Post Its would be a cheap, effective way to make sure train operators remember the number of cars on the train they're driving.

Other news:
Metro employees appear to have stopped parking at the Kiss and Ride in Takoma, but now they're doing it at Braddock Road. (Thanks Addison)
Metro revisiting MetroAccess (WaPo)
Col. Pike Streetcar moving forward (DC Examiner)

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Ethan Klapper said...

Thanks for posting this. Here's what I don't get: if eight-car trains are always operated in manual mode, wouldn't that be enough for an operator to figure out how many cars is on his train? I know six-car trains are operated like that too sometimes, but still, does this mean some eight-car trains are inadvertadantly being operated in ATC?

Mainland said...

I doubt some 8 car trains are inadvertently running on automatic, overruns would probably happen often, and central control shouldn't allow any 8 car train in automatic.

As for sticky notes, they're already all over the place. Take a look at the front or back of any 8 car train and you should be able to see at least one note stuck to a window or wall panel. I usually see no more than 3 notes stuck around the operator cab, often right by the door open/close button, reminding operators their train is 8 cars. Some also remind that the train must operate in manual mode only as well.

David said...

Just yesterday my OL train left foggy bottom and the door opened as we pulled out, then the train stopped the door closed, all the passengers, most probably having read the article, started to laugh. Classic.

Dave Stroup said...

you could have at least added a little hyperlink. on monday, i wrote:

"Or you know, you could just stop hiring dumbasses who can't even manage to say, put a post-it on the dashboard that says "8-car train, stupid.""


Unsuck DC Metro said...

We certainly would have had we seen your post.

Unsuck DC Metro said...


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