Metro Crash in D.C.

Much like the airline industry it is always interesting to read the after action reports of an accident or incident. Now that I am involved with trains, those actions seem to play a larger role in my duties and responsibilities. I received a call from my sister a few minutes ago asking if I had heard about the head on collision of the two Metro trains in the Washington D.C. area. I had not, so as soon as I got home I pulled up some information on the crash.

Of course it is too early to determined just what caused the crash, but there is a good chance we could see some repercussions because of the accident. Similar to BART implementing a “no texting” policy for train operators after the deadly crash in Los Angeles a few months back. Well, that no texting policy, as well as no mobile devices at all when in position at console was also implemented for safety reasons. Makes sense.

This accident in D.C. was a head on crash, which is almost an impossibility in the BART system. Trains run (usually) in automatic, also known as ATO. Routes that generate through an interlocking, open an entry gate and then lock that ATO route for the train to go through. There is no way two ATO routes can generate which would cause two trains to end up in a head on collision at 70 mph.

With that said, there are many times where trains will occupy the same track, but one of the two trains will diverge in the front of the other at an interlocking. This is quite common in my daily routine. I did see a potential problem one day when two trains, potentially both in ATO that could have had a “cornfield meet”, where two trains are nose to nose and one much change ends and go the direction they came, Of course a head on could not have occurred because there was an electronic gate separating the two trains and one departing the station would have no ATO speed codes, while the inbound train would have profiled down to a stop.

Nonetheless any accident of this magnitude is unfortunate. I will be more interested in the cause of the accident than I normally would have been if I were still involved in the airline industry. Story developing…

Patron in the Trackway

Please. Someone explain what compels an individual to jump down into an active trackway that moves high speed trains with A LOT of voltage? I guess people are just stupid. So you drop a personal item into the trackway. The LAST thing you do is go in after it, unless of course you are feeling lucky or have a death wish.

While I don’t understand the philosophy of committing suicide, individuals climb down into the trackway or jump in front of a moving train. Stupid. But for individuals who are supposedly “sound of mind” why would go in after ANY item? I only bring this up because it seems to be an all too often occurrence within the BART system.

The correct thing to do, unless it is a person in the trackway is to go back up to the station agent’s booth and tell the agent. If it is a person in the trackway then break the glass on the platform that de-energizes the trackway at the platform. Of course trains can still coast for quite a distance, so even this is no guarantee that a train what coast into the station.

Be responsible and be smart. DO NOT. I repeat DO NOT go into the trackway for any reason. There is a good chance your item will still be there, even if a train rolls over the item. This includes articles of clothing, cellphones, balls and other strange items that somehow find their way mysteriously into the trackway. Last thing you want to do is retrieve it yourself. Chances are you won’t hear the train until it is too late.

Educated Riders = Better Riders?

I post on very few, okay one BART related blog, the other is not worth my time to respond to for various reasons. As I boarded up today at North Concord, during commute I started thinking, why is there not a site or a portion of a blog that attempts to educate the ridership of BART. The way I figure it, the riders on the C Line are probably more knowledgeable when it comes the ridership.

What I mean by educate is to give riders a basic understanding of some of the terms used at BART, as well as some of the unique features. For example, if you call the Train Operator, let them know what car you are on and what end, denoted by an ‘X’ or a ‘Y’ listed next to the car number above the inner car closure doors. Some riders also assist the Train Operator when there is a slow closing or stuck door in the pocket. Trains won’t depart with a door open and could possibly be taken out of service if the door cannot be closed. That is something no patron wants.

These are just a two examples but a full list of items could benefit both the ridership and BART to making the system run smoother. Potential topics could include:

  • Wayside Terminology
  • Station Information
  • Trains
  • Etiquette

While I would enjoy a project like this, I don’t think I could really go into as much detail as I would like for fear it could jeopardize my position at BART. I am sure if you read some web sites, information was provided by some who possibly work for BART. Information that would probably be considered “internal.” This is pure speculation.

I do think it would be an interesting concept to educate the riders in order to “get them on board” so to speak. Looking at the BART web site, there is a Rider Guide, but it really does not go into the details I was considering. Maybe the future BART will educate the ridership.

Beep! Beep! the Union

So after my first trip to the Oakland side of the bay, I thought it was very cool taking the local rapid transit (aka BART) to visit my, now wife. I thought it would be cool to actually drive (operate) the trains that came and went at a given station platform. Well, today that “dream” (if you want to call it that) came true. I was the operator behind the button and made the choo choo go.

Okay, so it was not really my dream, but I was able to operate two trips before the train operator union found out and said that I (and my two other cohorts) were not allowed to. Ah, well, fun while it lasted and funny, but nothing happened. As if anything would of happened. But it was fun to a degree, still don’t think I could do it as a regular 9-5 sort of job.

So after a few inquiries and phone calls to my training manager about this union issue, some changes were quickly implemented. Instead of starting at 0530, which was “doable” I now have to be to work by 0315. That means waking up when some of you are going to bed at 0105! Yeah, “oh” as in OH MY GOD ITS FREAKING EARLY!!! I don’t think the local 7-11 will even be serving donuts yet! Although I can rely on Del Taco being open. LOL.

So 9 days and counting before this OJT is over and we take one more written exam and two check outs in order to pass. Personally, the check outs seem to be a real waste of our time and BART’s money, but I am not making these training decisions. So all is well.

On a Urban Terror related note, I might be bringing coverage to the Clanbase Finals on Wednesday, if so news will be posted on www.urbanterror.net. Stay tuned I will know more tomorrow (Tuesday).