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How one US metro is deploying a very old fashioned solution to a classic problem.

Posted by Emily O'Dowd on Oct 20, 2016

“This train_delays.jpegis an issue that comes up over and over again, and we don’t seem to know how to address it,” said board member Kathryn Porter, who represents Maryland. “We can’t just say, ‘Oops — somebody self- evacuated,’ when a whole train of people is sitting there for almost 20 minutes without being given sufficient information.”

For all metro riders, unfortunately it is no surprise to experience red signal delays. Every commuter can name a recent delay they have endured and even if it ranges from one minute to ten minutes, it is a minute too long. However, passengers on board the MBTA Red Line train were stuck in a tunnel for 45 minutes last month with no announcements to explain the hold up. The incident caused two angered passengers to self-evacuate from the train.

The solution? Carriage bullhorns. Yes, really. Read on for more...

The Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, believes that using bullhorns will be an effective way to improve communication when systems are down to prevent lengthy delays for metro riders. Time and time again, the Red Line service is impacted by the lack of communication between the dispatcher and the operator. “We put people in a situation where they feel they have no other options,” said Jack Evans, the Metro board’s chairman reported in the Washington Post.

Wiedefeld explains that his plan to install these bullhorns will mean that train operators can walk through crowded carriages to make a passenger announcement if other methods of contact are not working. Furthermore, he proposes that more checks need to be made to confirm if the operator’s radio is working before its journey.

Last month’s incident was caused by a switch's blown fuse which meant that the signal remained red for longer than necessary. On top of this it became apparent that the Metro Control Centre tried to redirect the train but could not get in touch with the operator. This severe delay has spurred an investigation into the improvements of the network’s continuous signal failures. Industry experts will then be able to identify these zones and install additional antennas. Wiedefeld is also keen to encourage new innovation for overhead speakers in the future.

What is more, passengers were not notified about the cause of the 45 minute delay until reading it in the newspaper two days later. Carol Carmody, head of the board’s safety committee said that she and other members urged Metro officials to consider similar incidents as more than just an expected nuisance for passengers but as an issue that can jeopardise passenger safety. 

Read the Rail and Metro Innovation Guide 2017

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Topics: quirky

Emily O'Dowd

Written by Emily O'Dowd

On graduating with a degree in English Literature at Royal Holloway University of London, Emily joined the editorial team. When she isn't writing articles for the website or interviewing experts in the industry she enjoys reading, running and sailing.

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