• Why does MD have high platforms and VA have low platforms?

  • Discussion related to DC area passenger rail services from Northern Virginia to Baltimore, MD. Includes Light Rail and Baltimore Subway.
Discussion related to DC area passenger rail services from Northern Virginia to Baltimore, MD. Includes Light Rail and Baltimore Subway.

Moderators: mtuandrew, therock, Robert Paniagua

  by davinp
 
Does anybody here know why MD has high platforms and VA has low platforms?

In VA, we have to walk down the steps of the train to access the platform, whereas in MD they don't - just walk outside the door (or trap door on the Kawasaki's). In fact, the Alexandria station is so low that it requires a step stool.
  by taoyue
 
Maryland also has low-level platforms on the Brunswick Line. I take it you're thinking about the Northeast Corridor, which was converted to high-level platforms decades ago. Traditionally, the Northeast Corridor has ended in Washington, DC, so Virginia did not get the benefit of that conversion.

Low-level platforms are the default, unless high-level platforms are built. The current trend in commuter operations is to provide level boarding from low platforms or mini-high platforms, rather than to build high-level platforms.
  by realtype
 
Every single commuter rail system (except Metra Electric and NICTD) and Amtrak route outside of the Northeast uses low level platforms. The thing is high platforms are more expensive to construct, and don't really make much sense if the ridership at the station concerned isn't all that high. Therefore, since Northeast commuter rail systems and Amtrak trains have relatively very high riderhip numbers, especially on the Northeast Corridor, high level platforms are necessary to speed boarding/unloading. High platforms also make disabled boarding much eaiser. The Northeast Corridor in MD (MARC Penn LIne) sees far more (at least 10x) Amtrak and commuter trains and passengers than the Amtrak and VRE routes in VA, so high level platforms are definitely neccessary. All Amtrak stations in Maryland, except for Aberdeen, are high platform. Two of the nine MARC stations between DC and Baltimore and all four north of Baltimore, are low level, but MARC will be rebuilding two with high level platforms shortly.

Another major issue with high level platforms is freight train clearance. When Amtrak or commuter rail shares tracks with freight trains, the freight trains need to be able to clear the platforms safely. Some freight trains may not be able to clear high platforms, but all freight trains can clear low platforms. VRE shares both of its routes with freight lines (CSX and NS), and MARC shares its Brunswick and Camden lines with CSX. Excluding Union Station, there are only two high level platform stations on the Camden Line, and one on the Frederick Line; The tracks at these platforms are not used by freight trains.


Finally, not all types of paassenger equipment can be used at high level platforms. VRE's entire fleet currently consists of gallery cars which cannot be used at high level platforms because of their door arangement. The Bombardier "Sounder" bilevel cars previously leased by VRE also cannot be used at high level platforms.

BTW The Southbound/Eastbound platform of Rockville MARC/Amtrak station, is also very low (below the base of the tracks) and requires a stepping stool. I think it might have something to do with drainage issues.
Last edited by realtype on Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by polybalt
 
While I am not sure about Virginia, high-level platforms are illegal in almost all states west of Pennsylvania. Most states have regulations regarding minimum railraod clearances intended to protect brakemen riding the side of freight cars. While each state has its own allowed clearance, they generally do not permit wayside obstructions within, for example, seven feet of track center line. High-level platforms are about 5.5 feet from centerline, and are therefore illegal. Only the Northeast states have an exception for high-level platforms. I assume Chicago Metra Electric is grandfathered in Illinois, since it has been high-level since the 1860's and sees very little freight operation.

Pete Schmidt
  by matthewsaggie
 
Illegal? That's a new one on me, but I'll take your word for it. How does that jibe with the joint FRA/US Dept. of Justice desire to require high level, ADA compliant platforms at all train stops, the full length of the train, no matter how small the station.
  by Montyb
 
matthewsaggie wrote:Illegal? That's a new one on me, but I'll take your word for it. How does that jibe with the joint FRA/US Dept. of Justice desire to require high level, ADA compliant platforms at all train stops, the full length of the train, no matter how small the station.
I'm not so sure about that, especially when most commuter service outside of the NEC uses equipment that is not compatible with high-level platforms.
  by taoyue
 
The FRA is not requiring high platforms. It's requiring level boarding. This, low-boarding cars get low platforms of around 15 inches. Note, however, that 15 inches is still too high for freight compatibility (current low platforms are generally 8 inches).
  by realtype
 
The only cars in use in the United States that are equipped for level-boarding are the Bombardier bilevels used out West and in the South. VRE's entire fleet consists of gallery cars (new and ex-Metra) which can only be boarded at low platforms, but are not level boarding.

Apparently the FRA restriction doesn't affect VRE, since they just recently purchased 50 of those gallery cars. I do know however that Nashville's new commuter rail startup, "Music City Star" uses mini-high platforms for ADA accesibility to their all-gallery car fleet.
  by hi55us
 
I also know that Mini-Highs on freight territory usually has a HUGE gap(much larger than the gap at stations like Baltimore & Union Station). I believe that this is to accommodate the freight rr's
  by octr202
 
It seems to depend on the circumastances, mostly the level of passenger versus freight traffic, and also who has the final say. In my neck of the woods now (Eastern Mass/NH/Southern ME) you see both mini-high's with flip-up edges (MBTA) and ones that are built further away (DownEaster Stations in NH and Maine). Where the MBTA owns the tracks, the flaps are generally down unless a freight with a wide car is passing through, in which case they're raised. On the DownEaster Stations on Pan Am's trackage, the crews use a bridge plate to allow boarding -- they don't appear to have folding flaps.
  by Silverliner II
 
polybalt wrote:While I am not sure about Virginia, high-level platforms are illegal in almost all states west of Pennsylvania. Most states have regulations regarding minimum railraod clearances intended to protect brakemen riding the side of freight cars. While each state has its own allowed clearance, they generally do not permit wayside obstructions within, for example, seven feet of track center line. High-level platforms are about 5.5 feet from centerline, and are therefore illegal. Only the Northeast states have an exception for high-level platforms. I assume Chicago Metra Electric is grandfathered in Illinois, since it has been high-level since the 1860's and sees very little freight operation.
Pete Schmidt
The Amtrak station in Syracuse, NY, is a high-level platform station. Probably the only high-level west of Albany anywhere (not counting Metra Electric)...
  by Silverliner II
 
chuchubob wrote:The Chicago South Shore & South Bend has high platforms and uses gantlet tracks for freight clearance.
Nice pics! I've not been on the South Shore since '92....what stop was that?
  by Kaback9
 
hi55us wrote:I also know that Mini-Highs on freight territory usually has a HUGE gap(much larger than the gap at stations like Baltimore & Union Station). I believe that this is to accommodate the freight rr's
Yes thats why they have large gaps in some places.
  by matthewsaggie
 
chuchubob wrote:The Chicago South Shore & South Bend has high platforms and uses gantlet tracks for freight clearance.
I have asked this question before and never received a satisfactory answer- how are gauntlet tracks controlled and operated? By the dispatcher somewhere? By local control somewhere? It would seem to add a lot of trouble to a dispatchers life to have to handle these things, too.