A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

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A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Arlington » Fri Feb 14, 2014 12:38 pm

A simple gate on a busy platform has cut 1 to 2 minutes from the typical train rider's trip on the Santiago Chile Subway. That's the kind of speed improvement that usually takes a multi-million dollar signal upgrade or an aggressive State of Good Repair program. I don't see this as an either/or thing, but rather a "must do" as part of an "all of the above" program to improve transit.

The gist is this: for narrow platforms with large crowds aiming for multiple exits, it is better to force users to use their closest exit and move a unidirectional flow of people, rather than let conflicting flows fight against each other. Regular commuters quickly learn that their daily commute works best from one end of the train, and not the other.

The clueless and Newbies are made to wait 30seconds to 1 minute before being permitted to flow in the conflicting direction.

I think Downtown Crossing and Park Street and South Station could all use a big dose of this. Look how well it works (you'll get it from the vids, even with the sound off)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2PcgDt4cFs
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby deathtopumpkins » Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:35 pm

Yes because a crowd of people standing around waiting for the gate to open totally doesn't block the platform at all.

Even without this gate regular commuters still know the best place to be on the train. I learned exactly which door opens in front of the stairs on the red line at Kendall and at Park long ago, without being forced to. All a gate would do is confuse tourists and increase crowding on platforms. As a T commuter, this sounds like a really bad idea.
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Arlington » Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:55 pm

deathtopumpkins wrote:Even without this gate regular commuters still know the best place to be on the train. I learned exactly which door opens in front of the stairs on the red line at Kendall and at Park long ago, without being forced to.

And yet, an incentive to learn, and an incentive to *act upon what you learned* can make a big difference in how the crowd, in the aggregate behaves, and in the aggregate improves their lives.
deathtopumpkins wrote: Yes because a crowd of people standing around waiting for the gate to open totally doesn't block the platform at all....All a gate would do is confuse tourists and increase crowding on platforms. As a T commuter, this sounds like a really bad idea.

Did you watch the video? They address this. Both in the simulation (animation) and in real-life the (small) crowd at the gate blocks nothing...and for 4 reasons:
1) It isn't just that the vast majority has learned which end they *should* ride on...but now the vast majority actually *do* ride on that end that is best for them.
2) If you forget, you go with the flow and the sort it out on the surface (where there is more room and no implication for transit delay, and therefore "inexpensive" to sort out)
3) The crowd "breaks" in the direction of its exits, leaving relatively few people in the no-man's-land in between (where the gate is). The (small) crowd forms in such a way as to block neither stream (because the streams have already been directed away from each other), leaving a small dead space in which the clueless congregate briefly.
4) The gate eventually opens, allowing those who would have screwed things up to go on their way (the "tourists"...hand them a system map and a coupon book while they wait).

IN this, it is similar to on-ramp metering on expressways. The folks that would otherwise congest the free-flowing system are made to wait a while so that they don't gum the thing up. The solution is counter-intuitive. That it violates people's intuition is what made the gate "initially controversial", but the video shows that your intuition is wrong.

deathtopumpkins wrote: Yes because a crowd of people standing around waiting for the gate to open totally doesn't block the platform at all....All a gate would do is confuse tourists and increase crowding on platforms. As a T commuter, this sounds like a really bad idea.


The system can then even get better if markings are made at "upstream' stations to show/suggest where the "break" in the train will be when it gets to the CBD stations.

It is also like the counter-intuitive results they get when they *close* road segments and *increase* capacity, because that road was causing the need to weave/merge on some bigger road. It isn't just square feet of platform, its how it all flows. Less, in this case, moves more (and moves them faster).
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Patrick Boylan » Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:21 pm

I have long wondered about regular commuters' intelligence who stand in train doorways, I assume in order to ensure they're 10 seconds quicker to get off the train, which they have made probably a minute or so later than it would otherwise need to be since they block others from getting on and off.
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Arlington » Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:27 pm

Patrick Boylan wrote:I have long wondered about regular commuters' intelligence who stand in train doorways, I assume in order to ensure they're 10 seconds quicker to get off the train, which they have made probably a minute or so later than it would otherwise need to be since they block others from getting on and off.

An excellent, relevant observation of how people balance their personal commute with the aggregate commute. Those who stand in the "vestibule" (or athwart the open doors) are folks who are smart, but have the wrong incentives--just like those that used to "fight" on the platforms in Santiago. They know every linear inch of their path-optimized commute, and know that being near the door results in getting off faster..and end up screwing things up for "the many"...and have not been given even the gentlest of incentives to make a small change in their behavior (e.g., "step off...we'll let you step back on..."-- If we had a way of making good on this "promise" fewer would choose to block the doors).

The platform gate is a small reminder and a small disincentive on an individual level and a huge win on a group level.
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby deathtopumpkins » Fri Feb 14, 2014 5:30 pm

Arlington wrote:
deathtopumpkins wrote:Even without this gate regular commuters still know the best place to be on the train. I learned exactly which door opens in front of the stairs on the red line at Kendall and at Park long ago, without being forced to.

And yet, an incentive to learn, and an incentive to *act upon what you learned* can make a big difference in how the crowd, in the aggregate behaves, and in the aggregate improves their lives.
deathtopumpkins wrote: Yes because a crowd of people standing around waiting for the gate to open totally doesn't block the platform at all....All a gate would do is confuse tourists and increase crowding on platforms. As a T commuter, this sounds like a really bad idea.

Did you watch the video? They address this. Both in the simulation (animation) and in real-life the (small) crowd at the gate blocks nothing...and for 4 reasons:
1) It isn't just that the vast majority has learned which end they *should* ride on...but now the vast majority actually *do* ride on that end that is best for them.
2) If you forget, you go with the flow and the sort it out on the surface (where there is more room and no implication for transit delay, and therefore "inexpensive" to sort out)
3) The crowd "breaks" in the direction of its exits, leaving relatively few people in the no-man's-land in between (where the gate is). The (small) crowd forms in such a way as to block neither stream (because the streams have already been directed away from each other), leaving a small dead space in which the clueless congregate briefly.
4) The gate eventually opens, allowing those who would have screwed things up to go on their way (the "tourists"...hand them a system map and a coupon book while they wait).


I did watch the video. I don't think telling people to "sort it out on the surface" is an acceptable solution though, because if they're on the wrong end of the platform, and going with the flow puts them on the surface when really they wanted to transfer to another line, they'll have to pay again to re-enter the station.

deathtopumpkins wrote: Yes because a crowd of people standing around waiting for the gate to open totally doesn't block the platform at all....All a gate would do is confuse tourists and increase crowding on platforms. As a T commuter, this sounds like a really bad idea.


The system can then even get better if markings are made at "upstream' stations to show/suggest where the "break" in the train will be when it gets to the CBD stations.[/quote]

That's all well and good, but what if you don't have time to fight your way down the platform to the appropriate end? I know on days like today when I get on the red line inbound at Kendall the platform is pretty packed, and it takes a good 1-2 minutes to make your way down to the other end, so as to easily connect to the green line at Park. I'd say about half the time the train comes before I've made it all the way down. Are you suggesting then that rather than hop on this train in the 'wrong' place, and sort it out on the platform at Park, I should bowl people over sprinting down the platform, or wait until the next train? There is a huge number of people who get to T stations right as the train does, and don't have time to walk to the appropriate place on the platform before boarding. And sure, on a line like in the video where trains come every 1-2 minutes, you can expect people to wait for the next train. But not so much here in Boston where the trains only occasionally if you're really lucky come that frequently.
Now, that could be solved by allowing people to pass through between subway cars, but I can't see the T doing that.

So essentially this system delays and potentially confuses tourists who won't know where to stand on the platform (no amount of signage or paint will change that), and commuters who happen to make it to the station right as the train is coming and don't want to wait for the next one. Not to mention the fact that it would cost the T a pretty penny to staff these gates, and I'm sure it would be no time at all before someone tried to force their way through, either by assaulting the T employee or by climbing over/around. It just seems like a really bad idea that solves a problem that doesn't really exist in the first place.
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Arborwayfan » Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:18 pm

I've changed trains at that station quite a few times. In 2010 and again in 2013 I lived one station south on Line 4. Line 4 ends at Tobalaba Station; Line 1 extends east and west from the station. (It's the place on this map http://www.metrosantiago.cl/estacion/plano-red where the dark blue and red lines meet. The platform you see is really narrow because of the canal. The Line 4 platform is the lowest part of the station. Above it are the Line 1 platforms, with substantial concourses on each side including some shops. Above that is a huge concourse with ticket offices, turnstiles, and a bunch of shops. Above that, the street. You can take any staircase off that platform at reach either platform on Line 1 without leaving the paid area; if you go up the "wrong" stairs you have to go up and over Line 1 and down on the side you want, but there are escalators and a line on the floor to show you how.

I have not seen the gate, but a lot of people seemed to have it figured out anyway. It didn't take me long at all. This August, I think it was, I saw crews out late one evening putting big stickers on the floor at the foot of the stairs of the other stations on the line saying "To go east on Line 1, turn left here and use the back half of the train; to go west, turn right and use the front half of the train. Since the stairs are in the middle of the platform, right opposite the coupler in the middle of the train, everyone has to turn one direction or the other anyway, so that's not a problem and the stickers are a great idea. Also, most of the other stations on the line have fewer pax and wider platforms, so there's not a problem with choosing which end of the train.

When you get to the the line 1 platform it may be entirely full of people; you may see a train go by before you can get to the edge of the platform and get on. Not that that's much of a delay: Line 1 runs trains about every 90 seconds at rush hour, approx 7-car trains, most of them now continuously connected with diaphragms. Line four runs about every 2:20 as you see; the cars are in permanently coupled ABA sets of three, which run in ABAABA trains at rush hour. It really is as crowded as it looks. At rush hour they run skip-stop expresses, red route and green route.

At another station, where Line 4 meets Line 5, there are some stairways that are regulated at rush hour so some are up and some are down, while the rest of the time they are two-way. Labor is cheap enough to put guard-guides there.

I can't picture any T station as crowded as most Santiago Metro transfer stations, except when a game lets out someplace, or maybe Park Street Under with two trains in it. or any where the traffic patterns are so easily divided, so I don't think the gate idea would really help any place. Also, there's no T line where almost all the passengers get off at just one station, and almost all of them change trains there. But I have not lived in Boston for 18 years.

Other interesting things about Tobalaba: the southbound (boarding) platform of Line 4 has an amusing unofficial but firmly followed dance during rush hour. There are four kinds of passengers: those who want a green skip-stop train and insist on a seat; those who want a green train but will stand; those who want red and insist on a seat; those who want red and will stand. So when the green train comes in, the people flow in until the seats are full. Then the green-seat passengers who are left just stand in front of the doors, behind the yellow line, while the standees walk around them to board. Actally, the red-seat passengers left over from the last train were already standing in those spots, so all boarding is more or less likely to be around a little knot of people. Everyone is pretty polite and it runs smoothly, unless there's a delay, in which case pax can end up standing still all the way up the stairs from the Line 1 platforms.

To speed up the process of changing ends --or maybe just because it's impossible to walk the full length of the train because the cabs don't have end doors in them -- Metro has the operator who will take the Line 4 train out on its next run board at the rear of the train while the pax get off. While the operator who brought the train north takes it past the crossover, the new operator sets up the cab for the run back south. The crossover is aligned, the new operator takes the train to the boarding platform, and the previous operator gets off. I assume he or she hits the restroom/water fountain/whatever and then walks up and over to the deboarding platform to repeat the process. Metro does this at some other stations with equipment in which an operator could walk the whole length of the train while out on the tail track, so there, at least, they do it to save time.

The system is crowded, but it's in good repair and growing fast. Two other lines are under construction.
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Patrick Boylan » Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:35 am

Another reminder, this gated platform is at Santiago's line 4's TERMINAL. The only Boston terminal that is also a transfer to another line is Ashmont, and the tranfer is not perpendicular. To a lesser extent Government Center Blue line, since I bet not many people board at Government Center just to ride 1 stop to Bowdoin. I can not see many cases where this gated platform, to help direct people to east vs west transfer stairs, applies to Boston, or any place other than a terminal transfer to a perpendicular line.
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Arlington » Sat Feb 15, 2014 1:48 pm

I'd suggest this as "the take away": There exist small, inexpensive optimizations that produce great benefits for the vast majority, change the behavior of some at no cost, and impose a small cost on an unconscious/selfish few that can produce very large gains inexpensively.

This insight is essentially step 1 of the German Railways mantra: "Organization before Electronics before Concrete"
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Arlington » Sat Feb 15, 2014 5:27 pm

Here's another recent example of encouraging the behavior that DTP likes (boarding the right car for your later transfer/exit). A guerrilla campgain by the Efficient Passenger Project in NYC: signs indicating "board here for best transfer to..."
"Controversy" as described at Second Avenue Sagas Blog

Image
From the NY Daily News:
The MTA wasn’t amused.
MTA officials said the unauthorized signs will make the average straphanger’s experience worse. “These signs have the potential to cause crowding conditions in certain platform areas and will create uneven loading in that some train cars will be overcrowded while others will be under-utilized,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.
Officials also point out that riders in the know already position themselves on platforms with a mind toward an upcoming transfer. Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said the Efficient Passenger Project’s signage is a good idea the MTA should adopt.
“If [New York City] Transit’s going to tear them down, they should replace them with official signs pointing out the best locations to transfer,” he said. Tony Long, 32, from Manhattan, agreed.
“I think it’s silly that the MTA took the signs down," Long told the Daily News while riding the rails Tuesday. “It’s totally harmless. There’s no harm in educating passengers on how to get from point A to point B more efficiently."


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mta ... z2tQrt3sa6


Personally I'm with the insurgents, and I find the MTA's position inconsistent. If regular riders "already know" where to stand for their transfer, what's the downside of letting newbies in on the secret? Seems to me newbies are the last people we'd trust (and the ones who will cause the most on-platform "friction") when the board in the "wrong" place.
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby SM89 » Sat Feb 15, 2014 6:39 pm

Arlington wrote:
Patrick Boylan wrote:I have long wondered about regular commuters' intelligence who stand in train doorways, I assume in order to ensure they're 10 seconds quicker to get off the train, which they have made probably a minute or so later than it would otherwise need to be since they block others from getting on and off.

An excellent, relevant observation of how people balance their personal commute with the aggregate commute. Those who stand in the "vestibule" (or athwart the open doors) are folks who are smart, but have the wrong incentives--just like those that used to "fight" on the platforms in Santiago. They know every linear inch of their path-optimized commute, and know that being near the door results in getting off faster..and end up screwing things up for "the many"...and have not been given even the gentlest of incentives to make a small change in their behavior (e.g., "step off...we'll let you step back on..."-- If we had a way of making good on this "promise" fewer would choose to block the doors).

The platform gate is a small reminder and a small disincentive on an individual level and a huge win on a group level.


When I get on at State heading southbound, the people in the last car always crowd the doors because they're getting off in one stop at Downtown. Usually I beast through, but there was one time when there were FIVE open seats, but no room for me and a few others to board. I flipped out. I leaned into the train and yelled "whoever is standing in front of those empty seats and making all of us miss this train is the rudest person in existence". They sat down.
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Arborwayfan » Sat Feb 15, 2014 7:23 pm

I like your takeaway, Arlington!

And I did think of one place this might help: put signs, or even one-way gates, at the top of the stairs to the middle platform at Park St. Under, so that people go down the stairs to the side platforms. Have the drivers tell people to get off on the left. If some get off on the right, no problem, but at least getting off would be quicker. Do you think it would help?
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby ExCon90 » Sun Feb 16, 2014 2:16 pm

Seems like a good idea for any station with platforms on both sides of the train. In the Munich S-Bahn (a railroad operation, but with subway-type equipment) the 5 stations in central Munich have a wide center platform and two side platforms. All the up escalators lead from the side platforms, while the down escalators go to the center platform. Arriving trains open the right-hand doors first, then the left. People get it right away, and they don't even need signs. (Maybe that's an example of "organization before electronics"?)
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby Elcamo » Mon Feb 17, 2014 2:10 am

ExCon90 wrote:Seems like a good idea for any station with platforms on both sides of the train. In the Munich S-Bahn (a railroad operation, but with subway-type equipment) the 5 stations in central Munich have a wide center platform and two side platforms. All the up escalators lead from the side platforms, while the down escalators go to the center platform. Arriving trains open the right-hand doors first, then the left. People get it right away, and they don't even need signs. (Maybe that's an example of "organization before electronics"?)


Isn't this known as the Spanish solution?
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Re: A Simple Platform Gate Speeds Commutes & Cuts Dwell

Postby joshg1 » Wed Feb 19, 2014 11:55 pm

This thread contains a two different issues pointing toward on goal. Physical plant (gates, signs, something new), and passenger behavior ---> squeezing more efficiency into the T. My example: I mostly ride the Red Line to/from South Station. If I get on northbound for Harvard Square, I want the south end of the train; for Harvard Yard (Church St), the north end for the stairs. Going to South Station I get on the south end so I can go up the newly fixed escalator and out into the street.

Would every station have a list for each car saying "Board Here for..."? Even if they did people will fan out and look for the emptiest car at the rushes- I do. I suggest the muddle at the station pales in the riders mind to the ride on the train.

As for passenger behavior, if I know I'm going a distance I burrow into the crowd away from the door, only to work my way out before my stop. I never thought of it as altruism. (If you see a stocky guy on the the stairs of a Green Line car holding on to the poles on either side, say Hej.)

We've been here before, in this case Herald cartoonist Dahl in the 1940s:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/newmundane/12648750063/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/newmundane/12648620715
http://www.flickr.com/photos/newmundane/12648619135

and OT but always timely:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/newmundane/12648613765
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