West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficiencies

Discussion relating to commuter rail, light rail, and subway operations of the MBTA.

Moderators: CRail, sery2831

West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficiencies

Postby petahgriff8316 » Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:17 pm

Just moved to Medford after two years each in Somerville and Cambridge. Longtime rail and crossing anorak, but have been mystified by a few things I have seen at the infamous West Medford crossing (and adjacent station).

I was down at West Medford yesterday morning, and saw a northbound MBTA Lowell Line train stop and park at the station. Instead of the train pulling into the station and the gates going up, which is what (I have observed to be) is mostly the case with these trains, the last car was pulled past the roadway but was still "on" the circuit, keeping the gates down. Seeing my confusion, the crossing guard came over and told me that "unless the train is pulled further forward, we keep the gates down in case of a rollback." I asked "how often do rollbacks happen?" He did not have an answer, but said it's not worth the risk. I don't disagree with that, but I said "that doesn't seem very efficient." After all, why would a train not be able to pull further forward? Is the platform not long enough for trains of a certain car length? It's worth noting that, later that night, I observed another northbound train pull far enough into the station before stopping that the gates went up. All told, I would imagine it depends on the length of the train, but would love perspective.

Another observation: I used to take the Lowell line from North Station to Lowell daily (reverse commuting). There were a number of occasions where the outbound train I was on was held near Canal St. "to allow the inbound train to clear the station." I asked the conductor why in the world we needed to wait for another train to "clear" the station when there are two tracks in the station? He essentially said it is to "save people from their own stupidity" by preventing them from crossing the tracks while one train is stopped in the station (and the other is approaching). Of course, a number of dual-platform rail stations I've been to (CalTrain/NJT/etc.) with at-grade walkways between platforms are protected by gates and lights, but that would actually require financial investment, and the MBTA barely even spends money on "essential" things, so I'm not holding my breath.

For comparison: Ho-Ho-Kus NJ pedestrian crossing vs. Brandeis Roberts. You tell me which one shows more investment.

However, even without active grade crossing protection at a station, is it really necessary to only have one train occupy a given station? Maybe I'm a grump, but I don't think the MBTA has any responsibility to protect people from their own stupidity. I have trouble believing that it would be found negligent in court in a situation where the person clearly disobeyed safety signs such as "Look Before Crossing" (which are present at many MBTA stations).

Another thing: what does the crossing guards at High St. actually do aside from hold the flag and wave the train through? I fully recognize that intersection is an absolute nightmare with the side streets right there, and I remember at least once incident where a car was hit by an Amtrak Downeaster after going around the gates and seeing a parked MBTA train, but there are AWDs (including gates) and medians, so what is it that the crossing guard does that they don't? And, are they present at the crossing at all hours?

I am not a railroad employee, but I like to think I know more than the average person about grade crossings and their protection. And while I recognize that perhaps I have missed something here, I have to think that these "head scratchers" are things that perhaps members of the general public has observed (and wondered about) as well.
petahgriff8316
 
Posts: 98
Joined: Mon May 03, 2010 6:34 pm

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby BostonUrbEx » Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:52 pm

petahgriff8316 wrote:Is the platform not long enough for trains of a certain car length?


Six car sets are very unlikely to clear the crossing's island circuit as the head double needs to be on the platform. Even five car sets might struggle depending on how precise the engineer is, the head double would have to be well towards the end of the platform.

petahgriff8316 wrote:Another observation: I used to take the Lowell line from North Station to Lowell daily (reverse commuting). There were a number of occasions where the outbound train I was on was held near Canal St. "to allow the inbound train to clear the station." I asked the conductor why in the world we needed to wait for another train to "clear" the station when there are two tracks in the station? He essentially said it is to "save people from their own stupidity" by preventing them from crossing the tracks while one train is stopped in the station (and the other is approaching).


It is called an "intervening station," which means there are pedestrian cutouts and/or a lack of intertrack fencing. By law, the cutouts must be protected from pedestrians in order to allow another train into or through the station (ie: Beverly). If there is no intertrack fence at all (West Medford), I don't think the crew is even able to provide sufficient protection for it to be allowed at all. And again, this not an MBTA decision to protect stupid people, but a law [to protect stupid people]. But even if it were, MBTA policy could be rooted in the demands of an agency lawyer or insurance company. Historically, there have been numerous incidents resulting in death related to two trains occupying a station, including notorious incidents involving children.

petahgriff8316 wrote:Another thing: what does the crossing guards at High St. actually do aside from hold the flag and wave the train through?


That's about it! And the crossing does not meet FRA standards to relieve the city of needing to pay for the crossing tender. The tenders do on occasion make emergency broadcasts when vehicles or debris (trucks dragging crossing masts down) get stuck on the tracks. Trucks aren't supposed to turn right from Playstead to High St, but they do, and they used to drag the masts into the tracks all the time. Now they drag the big concrete planters that are protecting the masts, instead.

petahgriff8316 wrote:And, are they present at the crossing at all hours?


No. There's two shifts a day, but I'm not sure what the hours are.
User avatar
BostonUrbEx
 
Posts: 3780
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 9:55 pm
Location: Winn to MPT 8, Boston to MPN 38, and Hat to Bank

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby petahgriff8316 » Sun Jun 03, 2018 5:33 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:Six car sets are very unlikely to clear the crossing's island circuit as the head double needs to be on the platform. Even five car sets might struggle depending on how precise the engineer is, the head double would have to be well towards the end of the platform.


Makes sense, I suspected it had something to do with the length of the train. I've seen a number of northbound trains there pull into the station and the gates go up.

At least West Medford allows for the gates to go up for some trains. It still boggles my mind that the high-level platform at Brandeis-Roberts, for example, is so close to the road that any southbound train has to block South St. It would seem that if you move it a few yards down the road to the center of the station (thus taking the parked engine out of the circuit) and you eliminate a large amount of traffic congestion resulting from the southbound trains (although I am sure there are reasons they haven't, money being chief).

BostonUrbEx wrote:It is called an "intervening station," which means there are pedestrian cutouts and/or a lack of intertrack fencing. By law, the cutouts must be protected from pedestrians in order to allow another train into or through the station (ie: Beverly). If there is no intertrack fence at all (West Medford), I don't think the crew is even able to provide sufficient protection for it to be allowed at all. And again, this not an MBTA decision to protect stupid people, but a law [to protect stupid people]. But even if it were, MBTA policy could be rooted in the demands of an agency lawyer or insurance company. Historically, there have been numerous incidents resulting in death related to two trains occupying a station, including notorious incidents involving children.


See, this is the insight I was looking for. Thank you. I imagined there was some additional reason beyond what I knew, as the explanation I was given seemed to have holes. I seem to remember being at Brandeis-Roberts where two trains have been in the station, but there is a fence at that station, so while both stations lack at-grade pedestrian AWDs I can see the difference in terms of how they'd be treated legally. Agree that insurance companies/lawyers will be inclined to err on the side of caution, as they should, but that there is a law provides the context I was missing from the explanation of "protecting stupid people from themselves."

BostonUrbEx wrote:That's about it! And the crossing does not meet FRA standards to relieve the city of needing to pay for the crossing tender. The tenders do on occasion make emergency broadcasts when vehicles or debris (trucks dragging crossing masts down) get stuck on the tracks. Trucks aren't supposed to turn right from Playstead to High St, but they do, and they used to drag the masts into the tracks all the time. Now they drag the big concrete planters that are protecting the masts, instead.


Makes sense, I can see why that would be useful for when things go array. Logistically the High/Playstead intersection looks like an absolute nightmare, and cars waiting to turn left onto Harvard Ave. result in cars getting stuck on the tracks (despite numerous Do Not Stop on Tracks signs). Can't have side-street gates for Playstead since the left-turning traffic would be impacted, so as a result you have right-turning vehicles who get stuck behind left turners onto Harvard Ave. get into precarious positions. I have to wonder if traffic signals for High/Playstead and High/Harvard Ave. (and pre-emption) would help keep cars off the tracks, as I have observed numerous cars waiting for someone turning left onto both Playstead and Harvard be on the tracks when the AWDs active. (Cue honking at the left turning vehicle to hurry up.)

BostonUrbEx wrote:No. There's two shifts a day, but I'm not sure what the hours are.

I think I heard something that they aren't there for the late-night Downeasters. I'll take a look if I'm down there at night.
petahgriff8316
 
Posts: 98
Joined: Mon May 03, 2010 6:34 pm

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby BandA » Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:04 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:
petahgriff8316 wrote:Is the platform not long enough for trains of a certain car length?
Six car sets are very unlikely to clear the crossing's island circuit as the head double needs to be on the platform. Even five car sets might struggle depending on how precise the engineer is, the head double would have to be well towards the end of the platform.
Why does the head double need to be on the platform at West Medford? Seems more important for the train to clear the road. Close the traps & tell the passengers to use the second car. Is this an ADA issue? If so, what if the HP gets on the last car?
User avatar
BandA
 
Posts: 2409
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:47 am

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby RenegadeMonster » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:39 am

Is the head double the doors between the first two cars behind engine?

Is so this is probably an accessibility requirement because that is where they always align to the mini high platforms. So anyone who needs handicapped access gets placed by those doors.
RenegadeMonster
 
Posts: 409
Joined: Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:19 am

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 4:01 pm

I think the requirement for opposing trains to hold out is present where only one side platform serves both tracks; i.e., passengers positioned on the platform must cross the nearer track to board a train on the farther track, and most railroads have a rule or special instruction requiring trains on the nearer track not to enter the station if an opposing train is in or entering the station on the farther track. The SP had wayside fixed signals at such stations between San Francisco and San Jose to warn approaching trains when the other track was occupied. In the 1950s the B&M had such signals (as I recall, PRR-style position-light signals showing vertical or horizontal, according to track occupancy) -- I don't know whether they're still there.
ExCon90
 
Posts: 3870
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:22 pm

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby CRail » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:00 pm

BandA wrote:Why does the head double need to be on the platform at West Medford? Seems more important for the train to clear the road.

Why? A typical Commuter Rail train dwell time is about 30 seconds, and inbound trains trip the crossing for their entire stop anyways. Clearing the crossing is a convenience issue, properly positioning trains is a safety issue.

ExCon90 wrote:I think the requirement for opposing trains to hold out is present where only one side platform serves both tracks
BostonUrbEx explained this, it's at any station with "pedestrian cutouts and/or a lack of intertrack fencing." Certainly it includes single sided stations like you mentioned. This is why!
Moderator: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Avatar:3679A (since wrecked)/3623B (now in service as 3636B).
User avatar
CRail
 
Posts: 2273
Joined: Tue May 18, 2004 8:27 am
Location: Eastie

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby ExCon90 » Tue Jun 05, 2018 2:51 pm

The "This is why" link is not what I described. It shows the Burlington racetrack, and the passengers are not crossing the main to board a train on the center track -- they're using an established pedestrian crossing to get to the other side. What I described is a double-track station where there is no platform on the opposite side for the track farther from the station, requiring passengers to cross the nearer track to reach it.
I'm not familiar with the term "pedestrian cutout": does it refer to the "curb cut" in the platform to accommodate the crosswalk? In the situation I'm talking about there is no pedestrian crossing as such, merely a paved platform spanning it as far as the nearer rail of the farther track -- hence the need for trains on the nearer track to hold out, since passengers have nowhere else to stand while boarding.
ExCon90
 
Posts: 3870
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:22 pm

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby MBTA3247 » Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:00 pm

ExCon90 wrote:In the situation I'm talking about there is no pedestrian crossing as such, merely a paved platform spanning it as far as the nearer rail of the farther track -- hence the need for trains on the nearer track to hold out, since passengers have nowhere else to stand while boarding.

The closest the T comes to that is the Newton stations on the Worcester Line; each station has a short wooden platform extension crossing the southerly track to accommodate this on the rare occasions trains stopping at those stations are routed on the northerly track.

The more common scenario on the T is where the only (or primary) access to one platform is via pedestrian crossing from the other platform, as seen here. At those stations, you want to hold an opposing train outside of the station until the first train has departed, because you know the passengers who just got off will dart over that crossing as soon as the train clears it.
"The destination of this train is [BEEP BEEP]" -announcement on an Ashmont train.
User avatar
MBTA3247
 
Posts: 2663
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:01 pm
Location: Milton

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby Bramdeisroberts » Tue Jun 05, 2018 4:06 pm

What about Lincoln Center, where inbound passengers have to cross the outbound tracks to reach their trains (and often congregate on the outbound tracks while waiting for their inbound train)?
Bramdeisroberts
 
Posts: 349
Joined: Sat Feb 15, 2014 2:45 pm

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby MBTA3247 » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:06 pm

I forgot about that one. Same set up as the Newton stations, though, other than trains being regularly scheduled on both tracks.
"The destination of this train is [BEEP BEEP]" -announcement on an Ashmont train.
User avatar
MBTA3247
 
Posts: 2663
Joined: Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:01 pm
Location: Milton

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby TomNelligan » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:47 pm

ExCon90 wrote:I'm not familiar with the term "pedestrian cutout": does it refer to the "curb cut" in the platform to accommodate the crosswalk?


No, "cutout" is an old railroad term going back at least 50+ years (since I heard on the New Haven in back in the 1960s) referring to the potential problem in the situation you describe below, where passengers are crossing the near track to reach the far track and a second train shows up. Single-side platforms on double-track railroads were not uncommon at one time, even on busy lines. This example at Old Saybrook, CT, lasted into the 1980s. It looks dangerous now but didn't result in disasters, since employees paid attention to potential cutout situations.

http://photos.nerail.org/s/?p=243698

In the situation I'm talking about there is no pedestrian crossing as such, merely a paved platform spanning it as far as the nearer rail of the farther track -- hence the need for trains on the nearer track to hold out, since passengers have nowhere else to stand while boarding.
TomNelligan
 
Posts: 3256
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 5:43 pm
Location: Massachusetts

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby nomis » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:03 pm

ExCon, pedestrian cutout refers to cutouts in the intertrack fences for pedestrian access from one platform to another. It deals with a special instruction to NORAC Rule 121.
Moderator: Metro-North (with CDOT), Photography & Video

Avatar: An overnight trip on Girard Ave. stumbles upon 6 PCC's and an LRV stuck within two blocks.
User avatar
nomis
 
Posts: 2077
Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:52 pm
Location: MRS 43 (was QA 9 & QB 2)

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby ExCon90 » Wed Jun 06, 2018 3:52 pm

TomNelligan wrote:http://photos.nerail.org/s/?p=243698

In the situation I'm talking about there is no pedestrian crossing as such, merely a paved platform spanning it as far as the nearer rail of the farther track -- hence the need for trains on the nearer track to hold out, since passengers have nowhere else to stand while boarding.

Thanks -- that's just the situation I had in mind.
ExCon90
 
Posts: 3870
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:22 pm

Re: West Medford (and grade crossing) perceived inefficienci

Postby ceo » Wed Jun 06, 2018 3:57 pm

There's also single-sided platforms on double-track lines at Kendal Green, Hastings and Silver Hill on the Fitchburg Line. Also Longwood on the Green Line, effectively.
ceo
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 9:28 am

Next

Return to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests