Rail Awards – Gold

Award: Rail Safety, Commuter/Intercity Rail

MTA Metro-North Railroad, New York, New York

Fallen leaves crushed by passing trains form a residue that reduces rail-adhesion. This friction creates “slip-slide” conditions that result in unsafe braking and wheel damage resulting in “flat-spots,” costly repairs, and the removal of equipment from service. In response, Metro-North’s retrofitted “Comet III” train used lasers to remove contaminants, but only at 25 mph or under. With the speed restrictions, “Comet III” could only operate outside of service hours, so enhanced measures were needed.

Laser Precision Solutions began testing high speed lasers in England. Increasing operating speeds to 60 mph would allow Metro-North to create a schedule that addressed 572 miles of affected track daily and the ability to treat areas with high incidents up to twice daily.

While this technology showed potential, it was not ready for operation as it also introduced new complications. Shields positioned on the equipment were needed to contain debris and block bright lights. However, the shield had to be lifted as the train approached an interlock, switch, or grade crossing. GIS data was used to map those locations and program the train to turn off the lasers and lift the shields with accuracy. Due to this, Metro-North was able to deploy the train safely at 60 mph during service hours.

Since its activation in October 2022, the laser train has safely covered 12,132 miles without incident to infrastructure. 2022, saw the lowest number of cars shopped for wheel truing in the last seven years and slip and slide incidents have also decreased, saving the railroad up to $1.6 million.

Award: Rail Safety, Light Rail/Streetcar

Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) Portland, Oregon

In 2021, TriMet entered a cooperative agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to pursue a Safety Research Demonstration (SRD). The project utilizes Video Analytic System (VAS) data at grade crossing locations to catalog pedestrian, motorized and non-motorized vehicle traffic counts, direction of travel, and heat map data. The quantitative human behavior data from the VAS is collected and compared with incident data.

The program objectives were to identify and categorize grade crossings, using a newly developed Risk Ranking Tool (RRT) to prioritize adjustments in safety enhancements. The tool would be used to measure the relative risk associated with existing conditions for grade crossings. Tri-Met could prioritize future safety enhancements at grade crossings, based on the findings from the RRT. Upgraded camera technology and data analytics were used to understand risks and incidents at grade crossings.

Data collected could be used in future considerations of incidents, by assessing the potential efficacy of new safety treatments to support risk reductions. The period of performance for the project is July 2021 through June 2025. While this demonstration is still underway, TriMet has  data to support positive safety impacts and promising transferable outcomes.

Award:  Rail Safety, Heavy Rail

Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), Oakland, California

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) established a fire life safety (FLS) program to improve the agency’s safety culture. The program addresses the areas of inspections, training and exercises, and fire prevention support. The program has resulted in improvements in emergency response compliance, equipment operability, and fewer station inspections deficiencies. Every BART facility is assessed each year to identify hazards and formulate appropriate mitigations.

Another outcome of the program is an improvement in the relationships between BART, law enforcement and fire fighters. In 2022, over 600 first responders attended 61 training and familiarization events: including 5 full scale exercises and 6 tabletop exercises. The FLS program is modeled on the safety management system framework. Through inspection, education, and communication, the FLS program has improved BART’s ability to identify hazards. By centralizing FLS activities, other transit systems can benefit by promoting a fire safe culture and improving fire department-related incident outcomes.

Award:  Rail Security, Light Rail/Streetcar

Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) Portland, Oregon

In June of 2020, TriMet leadership reallocated nearly $2 million in funding to identify agency-wide efforts to improve safety, security, and the customer experience. TriMet conducted extensive community engagement and gathered feedback from more than 13,000 riders, frontline employees, and community members. TriMet established a blue-ribbon panel of local and national experts to advise on national best practices for transit security, equity and community engagement in safety and security. These actions were the first step in what would become a multi-year project called “Reimagining Public Safety & Security on Transit.”

With the Reimagined Security Program, TriMet utilizes a “community engagement first” approach. This has led to a multifaceted security team and data-based deployment strategies that maximize a security presence on the system. This approach allows TriMet to identify the best team to respond to and address issues, better utilize resources, and avoid unnecessary escalation. TriMet increased the number of Customer Safety Supervisors and contract security officers, and nearly doubled the non-police presence on the system from 2021 to 2022. Utilizing both static teams at rail transfer points and roving teams, the presence is more visible to customers and discourages inappropriate behavior on the system.

In addition, TriMet’s extensive camera network provides monitoring in real time, verifying reported incidents and allowing for the deployment of appropriate resources for improved outcomes. The security camera network assisted Tri-Met’s law enforcement partners apprehend suspects in 49 homicide investigations and 57 shooting cases in 2022. By reimagining their security approach and moving to multifaceted, multi-tiered security teams and a more strategic approach, TriMet increased security for riders, employees, and the communities they serve.

Award:  Rail Security, Heavy Rail

Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Atlanta, Georgia

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) Police Department, in collaboration with the Atlanta Police Department, created a Joint Bike Patrol Team (JBPT) to improve the safety and security of MARTA employees and passengers. While bike patrols may be customary, the novel concept of joint bike patrols by police departments with shared authority combines resources, expertise, and the robust delivery of law enforcement services.

Benefits of the JBPT include improved response times to calls for service, a decrease in crime, and enhanced relationships between law enforcement and the public. Police bike patrols can navigate rail stations, parking lots, bus garages, the right-of-way, alleys, and crowded streets, which might prove difficult for police vehicles. Added benefits of bike patrols and pedal power are health promotion and a reduction in greenhouse gases. By partnering with the Atlanta Police Department on the joint bike patrol, the MARTA police and rail leadership team have strengthened relationships with employees and passengers, promoted collaboration between law enforcement and rail operators, and improved communication and information sharing.

Award:  Rail Emergency Management, Commuter/Intercity Rail

MTA Metro-North Railroad, New York, New York

Metro-North created a dual level high-water alarm system to mitigate flooding and reduce impacts to rail service. The high-water alarm system monitors water conditions in specific flood-prone areas and detects high water levels at different height intervals, which provides additional time to assess and initiate corrective actions. This system enhances safety, protects equipment, reduces long-term expenses, and allots more time to reroute trains.

Metro-North has been able to operate in a normal capacity during storm related events without having to dedicate staff and equipment to monitor flood-prone locations, thus freeing those assets for deployment, where needed. While high water alarms are available on the market, the unique aspect of Metro-North’s alarm system is the duality of the alarms, alerting at multiple locations. Metro-North’s system uses two, one-alarm systems set at different thresholds, in the same area. The Operations Control Center is alerted, in real time, to any flooding around the alarm trigger and can warn trains and dispatch personnel immediately. This time savings translates to a reduction in stranded and/or flooded trains. This system can be adopted by other systems that currently have high water alarms, by a retrofit to a two-level alarm system.

Award:  Rail Emergency Management, Light Rail/Streetcar

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Dallas, Texas

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) operates in numerous jurisdictions. Pre-COVID, DART would activate their Emergency Operations Center (EOC) adjacent to the police, bus, and rail dispatch centers for major events. During the pandemic, DART utilized Microsoft Teams ® (Teams) in lieu of in-person meetings to adhere to COVID protocols, so it became an inherent choice for a virtual EOC.

After the pandemic, DART employed a hybrid emergency operations center, which allows the EOC to be activated at any time. Personnel with emergency management duties who happen to be off-duty or away from the office can gain access to the EOC via a cell phone or an at home computer. The hybrid EOC allows operational personnel to be at critical locations to gather and share information, as if they are sitting in the EOC. Meetings using Teams include the use of CCTV feeds, light rail tracking, and a live feed chat room that provides critical information for response and recovery.

Hosting EOC meetings on Teams has added clarity to the management of incidents and special events. Information can effectively be communicated through a series of Teams meetings and no additional costs were incurred. Transit agencies that use Teams can replicate this hybrid EOC alternative.

Rail Awards – Certificates of Merit

Award:  Rail Safety, Commuter/Intercity Rail

Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink), Los Angeles, California

The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) contracted with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for grant funding to pilot a project integrating the US Geologic Survey “ShakeAlert” with the Metrolink’s Positive Train Control (PTC) system along the system’s Perris Valley line in an application named the Commuter Rail Seismic Interface (CRSI). The objective of the project is to develop, test and implement the automation of the ShakeAlert notifications with the PTC system to stop or slow a train upon notification of an earthquake. CRSI is an interface that receives the early earthquake notifications from ShakeAlert and initiates PTC messages to stop or slow trains based on business rules, geo-fencing of train locations and shaking levels determined in the application. Prior to this project, notifications to train crews regarding earthquakes were handled via radio communication once dispatch personnel had been notified of earthquakes. Testing and monitoring have shown the overall system to be highly reliable and effective at providing the functional outcome of reducing the time it takes for an earthquake alert to reach the trains identified by CRSI. System-wide deployment across the remaining lines that Metrolink trains operate on is expected to be completed soon.

Award:  Rail Safety, Light Rail/Streetcar

Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT), Sacramento, California

The growing population of people experiencing homelessness is a national concern that impacts public transportation providers. The Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) has worked diligently to reduce trespassing along the rail right-of-way (ROW) by people experiencing homelessness. While placing emphasis on addressing the needs of this vulnerable population, SacRT used a crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) assessment, as part of the North 12th Street Safety Program. The program includes the use of a social equity first approach. The main contact with the ROW trespassers is a SacRT social service practitioner, not law enforcement. The program is data driven using a before and after trespasser count as a dataset. A new partnership between SacRT and community-based social service organizations has been formed. Existing partnerships between SacRT and the City of Sacramento were expanded, to include construction of physical barriers and done in partnership with the City of Sacramento. Finally, the use of law enforcement officers to obtain compliance was kept to a minimum to improve the quality of the engagement between SacRT’s social service practitioner and the “client” trespasser. The effectiveness of SacRT’s North 12th Street Safety Program resulted in a 19.2% reduction in ROW trespassing within the study area, between calendar years 2021 and 2022.

Award:  Rail Security, Light Rail/Streetcar

Niagara Frontier Transit Authority (NFTA), Buffalo, New York

To test their preparedness and response capabilities, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) planned a multi-jurisdictional tabletop exercise that included personnel from the Buffalo Fire Department, NFTA Transit Police, the Buffalo Police Department SWAT team, the American Medical Response (AMR), the Transportation Security Administration and staff from NY State Safety Oversight. American Public Transportation Association security standards and the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) Guide directed planning for the exercise. The exercise goal was to evaluate the effectiveness of current NFTA procedures, resources, and training. After the exercise, an after-action hot wash was performed with all participants and areas for improvement were identified. Feedback from the tabletop evaluators and the hot wash validated that the guidelines used created a successful and objectively driven exercise that was a benefit to all participants and will result in improvements in NFTA’s emergency response in the future.

Award:  Rail Emergency Management, Light Rail/Streetcar

New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA), New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s (RTA) All-Hazards Plan provides guidance to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies resulting from a hazard. The plan’s goal is to provide a safe environment for RTA employees, contractors, customers, and the public. The plan facilitates coordination of emergency management and response operations within the city of New Orleans and amongst partners. Successful coordination and communication are crucial during an emergency response and effective emergency management is critical to protect Authority employees, passengers, critical infrastructure, and resources. To ensure that RTA leadership and management abilities align to direct response efforts, RTA has focused on familiarizing all staff with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS) training. RTA has been reshaping plans and creating new strategies that will support all hazards efforts during weather and other catastrophic events.

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