After Derailment, MTA Struggles To Find Right Mix Of Human Skill + Technology

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 04:00 AM

Cranes lift the derailed train wagons near the Spuyteh Duyvil station. (Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

The MTA is speeding up its plan to install an advanced safety technology on its commuter rail lines. But there's no magic bullet when it comes to preventing train crashes.

The technology -- called positive train control -- is untested and unproven on commuter lines as large and complex as Metro-North and Long Island Railroad. And George Bibel, author of Train Wreck, reminds riders that it's not foolproof: in 2009, a version of the system was in use on the Washington DC Metro when two trains collided, killing nine people.

Still, safety inspectors say positive train control would probably have prevented the Spuyten-Duyvil crash. But there are still questions, such as, how much automation is too much? And, can taking control from human operators paradoxically reduce safety?

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Julianne Welby


Comments [1]

Daniel Convissor from Sleepy Hollow

In this story and a previous one you said PTC is "untested and unproven." That wording doesn't sit right with me. There are _many_ reliable train control systems throughout the world.

Perhaps it'd be more accurate to say the hair brained wireless scheme Congress and the MTA are putting forth is problematic. (Pardon the editorializing.)

The "PTC infrastructure" of the following Wikipedia page has some good points.

Dec. 18 2013 10:16 PM

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