Positive Train Control (PTC)

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

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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby CRail » Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:31 pm

The Northeast Corridor is ACSES equipped, which is a form of PTC. I'm not positive if it's PTC compliant or if it will have to be upgraded when the mandate takes effect.

Other south side lines have Cab Signals, but not PTC. Currently, the entire north side is wayside only.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby gokeefe » Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:47 pm

CRail wrote:Currently, the entire north side is wayside only.


Right or wrong, I'm under the impression that the MBTA is an agency that is covered by the PTC mandate.

Is this correct?

If so what is the contemplated plan for the northside?
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby TrainManTy » Tue Dec 03, 2013 4:09 pm

CRail wrote:The Northeast Corridor is ACSES equipped, which is a form of PTC. I'm not positive if it's PTC compliant or if it will have to be upgraded when the mandate takes effect.


I believe ACSES is a valid form of PTC. However there's always the issue of interoperability so it could certainly be replaced/modified in the future by some standardized version of PTC.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby ns3010 » Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:24 pm

The NEC and Old Colony Lines (maybe Fairmount, too?) have cab signals, as well as the Worcester Line west of Framingham. The NEC has ACSES as well, which does count as PTC. The Old Colony Lines and CSS part of the Worcester Line utilize NORAC Rule 562 signaling, where there are no wayside signals except at interlockings and control points.

ACSES is capable of enforcing permanent and temporary speed restrictions at all locations.

Ordinary non-PTC cab signaling is only capable of enforcing speeds in response to the signals received. For example, it will require the train to be traveling at no more than 30 when the train has a Medium Clear indication. However, it will not be able to slow/stop the train if it is going too fast through a 30mph curve on a clear indication.

However, in some cases (I don't know if any of these exist on the MBTA, but they do in other places), a train will receive a less than clear indication as a way to enforce a speed restriction. For example, on NJT's Coast Line, there is at least one location (I believe at RARE) where a train will receive no better than a Limited Clear indication on a non-diverging move to prevent the train from proceeding through the curve faster than it is permitted to.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby sery2831 » Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:27 pm

The MN incident will probably make the Gov't less likely to grant a large delay in PTC installs.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby BostonUrbEx » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:07 pm

What happens if compliance is not met and no extensions are granted? Are fines issued? Do lines get shut down? Who enforces this? Is this a federal law? Or an FRA mandate of some sort?
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby Komarovsky » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:24 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:What happens if compliance is not met and no extensions are granted? Are fines issued? Do lines get shut down? Who enforces this? Is this a federal law? Or an FRA mandate of some sort?


To add to that, what would be the timetable for implementing ACSES on all the T's lines North and South. If they were to have a blank check given to them tomorrow and told to start planning for a fully funded rollout, how many months/years would it take for them to be in compliance?
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby ns3010 » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:37 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:What happens if compliance is not met and no extensions are granted? Are fines issued? Do lines get shut down? Who enforces this? Is this a federal law? Or an FRA mandate of some sort?


The PTC mandate was enacted by Congress following the 2008 Metrolink wreck. At this point, I don't know what the "punishment" will be for not being compliant by the end of 2015.


Komarovsky wrote:To add to that, what would be the timetable for implementing ACSES on all the T's lines North and South. If they were to have a blank check given to them tomorrow and told to start planning for a fully funded rollout, how many months/years would it take for them to be in compliance?


Likely years. Different sections of railroad would be able to be equipped faster than others. Any lines that already operate with some form of cab signaling (be it Rule 251 or 261 with CSS/ATC overlay or Rule 562) will only need ACSES "layered" on top of the existing systems, and would be relatively easy. For sections of railroad that are wayside-only 251 or 261, it could be either only slightly harder, or possibly much harder. It has been said her before that much of the North Side signaling is the original B&M infrastructure, and is not capable of handling even a plain CSS/ATC system. Some other parts may be able to have the CSS and ACSES systems layered on top of the existing wayside systems.

So the time required depends on what's there already. Unfortunately, there is no planning or funding at this time to install ACSES on any of the current CSS equipped lines, so it is unlikely that anything other than Providence will be compliant by the current deadline, and that's only because the NEC isn't the T's problem to deal with.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby Dick H » Thu Dec 05, 2013 8:01 am

As I mentioned elsewhere, a former NTSB official appeared
on CNN a few days ago and stated that the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) has been dragging
their feet on setting up the radio communications
spectrum needed to implement PTC. He stated that
this would likely delay getting PTC in service.

PAR has requested a waiver from PTC. Even if that
waiver is approved, it would seem that any and all
PAR owned and leased locomotives operating in MBTA
territory would have to be equipped with PTC equipment.
This would also include NH Northcoast locomotives that
run through to Boston on the nightly gravel train.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby gokeefe » Thu Dec 05, 2013 8:32 am

Dick H wrote:PAR has requested a waiver from PTC. Even if that
waiver is approved, it would seem that any and all
PAR owned and leased locomotives operating in MBTA
territory would have to be equipped with PTC equipment.
This would also include NH Northcoast locomotives that
run through to Boston on the nightly gravel train.


PAR does in fact already have that waiver which permits them to run "up to" 12 passenger trains per day. However, the above is precisely my point in posting in this thread, once MBTA makes a decision on PTC this will automatically mean that PAR will have to equip their engines for operatins in PTC territory. In effect PTC is not a question of "if" for PAR, its a question of "when". "When" is likely quite a bit later than Class I railroads but it is not "never". In my mind that means it is probably a good time for NNEPRA/Maine to look at preliminary preparations for PTC upgrades Plaistow-Portland and in cooperation with PAR determine engineering requirements to accelerate speeds to Class V.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby Arborwayfan » Thu Dec 05, 2013 11:36 am

It's bad when anyone dies in a wreck, but PTC may not actually make much sense. The number of lives lost in PTC-preventable wrecks is so small that the cost per life potentially saved is millions and millions of dollars. I don't have the citations or links at my fingertips but have been told by an expert that when each life is valued at the typical rate (something like 3.5 million dollars per person), the return on investment of installing PTC throughout the country is something like 0.3%). You can debate the value of a life, but however much you say a life is worth, there are other things to do that would save more lives for the money.

Put another way, since 7.63 people die for each billion passenger miles driven, while only 0.43 people die for each billion passenger miles ridden in trains, if PTC raises the cost of commuter rail enough to significantly reduce service levels or prevent new starts, it could actually mean that more people died because people who might have been on trains end up dying.

Just thoughts.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby newpylong » Thu Dec 05, 2013 1:23 pm

Arborwayfan wrote:It's bad when anyone dies in a wreck, but PTC may not actually make much sense. The number of lives lost in PTC-preventable wrecks is so small that the cost per life potentially saved is millions and millions of dollars. I don't have the citations or links at my fingertips but have been told by an expert that when each life is valued at the typical rate (something like 3.5 million dollars per person), the return on investment of installing PTC throughout the country is something like 0.3%). You can debate the value of a life, but however much you say a life is worth, there are other things to do that would save more lives for the money.

Put another way, since 7.63 people die for each billion passenger miles driven, while only 0.43 people die for each billion passenger miles ridden in trains, if PTC raises the cost of commuter rail enough to significantly reduce service levels or prevent new starts, it could actually mean that more people died because people who might have been on trains end up dying.

Just thoughts.


That is ridiculous. You cannot quantify the cost of a human life. The number of accidents that could have been prevented or reduced by PTC is too large to list. Human error is unavoidable.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby CRail » Thu Dec 05, 2013 2:50 pm

Arborwayfan wrote:Put another way, since 7.63 people die for each billion passenger miles driven, while only 0.43 people die for each billion passenger miles ridden in trains, if PTC raises the cost of commuter rail enough to significantly reduce service levels or prevent new starts, it could actually mean that more people died because people who might have been on trains end up dying.


You're never going to get people to admit that they agree because public opinion is "life is priceless... if it saves one life it's worth it," but you make an excellent point! If it saves one life but costs 3, is it still worth it?

It's not about accidents, speed related accidents kill (idk what the latest figure is, but it's) a LOT of people in cars yet we continue to increase speed limits nationally. It's about burdening the railroads the way congress did when the interstate highway system was built. New diesel trains operated in excess of 100mph over stick rail with wayside signals. Railroads were happening, but people (and gov't) were more interested in private transportation and soaring through the air, so the rails got bludgeoned and left to die in favor of the fancier modes (This is in reference to the mandate requiring all trains operating over 69mph be equipped with cab signals which, at the time, barely existed). Here's shot number two; Railroading and alternate transportation is making a comeback. It's safer, cheaper, and easier (now) to travel by rail so long as operates adequately, and people are starting to realize that. This scares special interests (like oil and airlines) who don't want change, especially to the since deemed unattractive railroad industry we fought so hard to kill in the first place. So we make it harder for them to exist and expand, but we do so in the name of "SAFETY" so people will be on board with it. I'm always skeptical when I hear the "S word," because the motive is almost always somewhere else.

This may seem to have gone a bit off topic (and I hate sounding like a conspiracy theorist, because I'm not...) but I firmly believe that is what is truly the driving force behind PTC. The fact that it might save a few lives down the road just makes it sell better.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby Arborwayfan » Thu Dec 05, 2013 5:00 pm

newpylong wrote:You cannot quantify the cost of a human life.

Maybe you can't quantify the value of a human life, but you can quantify the marginal cost of saving one more life in any particular way. In fact, we pretty much have to. Since our resources aren't infinite, we can only do some of the possible things to save life; even if you think we as a society don't spend enough on safety (I probably agree), you know there's some limit to what we can spend. We could spend our resources on whatever hazards happen to get press in a given decade, but given $x, shouldn't we spend it in the way that saves the most lives? PTC may or may not be the thing that saves the most lives, and the only way to figure that out would be comparing various hazards, the number of lives lost or injuries, and the cost of fixing each hazard. That would tell what expenditure would save the most lives, and I'd say do that.
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Re: Positive Train Control (PTC)

Postby The EGE » Thu Dec 05, 2013 5:25 pm

You can't quantify the cost of a human life, but you can quantify work. Weekday ridership on the Hudson Line is 25,000. Let's say they work jobs that average $50 in productivity per hour (low to typical for white-collar business workers), and that for two days after the accident 10,000 of them didn't come into work. That's $8 million in lost productivity right there, not even considering ripple effects like person A being out making person B unable to do their job, etc.
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