Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

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  by justalurker66
 
Jeff Smith wrote:But people aren't perfect and situations are misjudged. How many near misses have we all been in? Think: There but for the grace of God go I.
Thank you for that comment.
  by pnaw10
 
Prediction: grade crossings within third-rail territory will be eliminated.

Initial (and also cheap) solution will be to simply wall-off streets with jersey barriers. Yes, the dead-ends will be inconvenient for awhile as people get used to finding the next-closest overpass crossing, but I predict lawmakers will frame it as an extra few minutes out of the way being better than risking another grade crossing crash. Kinda like when some of the at-grade intersections on the Taconic were eliminated years ago, by placing a barrier over the center median. Not sure if any of those intersections were in Westchester but I know there were a handful in Dutchess County.

Long-term, If it's ultimately decided that these streets need to be reopened... I'm not sure. First idea I had would be to elevate it like the LIRR Babylon Branch. But I know the Harlem Line has a pretty slim footprint in some areas of Westchester, so building new tracks next to the old ones may not be possible everywhere. Pulling this off might require closing one track in order to remove it and build the elevated structure, then repeat with the opposite track. One track serving both directions (for perhaps a year or more) would make things very difficult. This would be the most expensive, most complicated and most disruptive option.

On the other side of the spectrum, another possible solution may be to convert the line from third rail to catenary. This might be cheaper than building elevated tracks (and stations) and removing the old ones. But there would still be grade crossings -- just no third rail. As someone said a few pages back, there's still fire/shock hazards from catenary, though I'd imagine it would be considerably more difficult for a crash to cause the wires to fall down, as opposed to a car being pushed into a third rail. Other complications here include the need for more M8s and a sudden overstock of M7As, which would be relegated to the Hudson Line only. And, they'd have to trim or eliminate quite a few trees to avoid having trees fall on the lines... that might be a NIMBY hot button.

I'm not even going anywhere CLOSE to suggesting an "open cut" option à la the existing ROW through The Bronx. Would be expensive (moreso than an elevated line) and ugly.

Also, whatever happened to Operation Lifesaver? Does that still exist? I can't remember the last time I was exposed to any Operation Lifesaver ads or PSAs on TV, radio, online or in the newspaper. Maybe it's time to bring that back and refresh people on the basics of RR grade crossing safety.
  by The EGE
 
justalurker66 wrote:The closest idea to a pylon that I can imagine working would be the end of a Jersey barrier ramped down and buried to lift a vehicle up before it hit the exposed end of the rails. It would not need to be a full height barrier ... just enough to lift an object or dragging gear higher than the third rail.
Now that's a quality solution! Relatively inexpensive, requires only the barest of maintenance, and very likely to actually work.
  by Jehochman
 
The closest idea to a pylon that I can imagine working would be the end of a Jersey barrier ramped down and buried to lift a vehicle up before it hit the exposed end of the rails.
That seems like a good idea. A ramp that lifts anything approaching the end of the rail up and on top. Probably combine that idea with bending the end away from the tracks so that if something does hit, the rail deflects away, rather than piercing.
  by Matt Johnson
 
4400Washboard wrote: Keep in mind that this is a devekoping story.. While I do think the woman made a fatal and huge mistake, I wouldn't start slamming her until later on when more information comes out to solidify that she is an idiot.
The latest I saw was that she was a 49 year old mother of three returning home from work. Yes, it was human error and her tragic mistake hurt more than just her own family. But unless she was impaired or unlicensed, I would agree with the above and I can only assume that panic set in under a stressful situation. This was clearly an accident with multiple contributing factors (grade crossing next to an intersection, third rail making an otherwise all too common grade crossing accident into a major disaster, etc.)
  by mark777
 
I recall that M7s are AC powered, that while they feed of a 750 volt DC powered third rail, the M-7's have I believe "inverters" or some word similar to that, that converts the DC power into AC power for traction. In this case, even if third rail power is cut off, the train will still maintain a considerable amount of high voltage on the equipment for up to 5 mins or more. That might explain why there was power to the rear of the train. Eventually once power is cut, most of the lights will eventually shut off with only the emergency lights and markers remaining on via battery.

Although I do not know the area railroad wise, another possibility is if the train bridged the third rails on both sides of the crossing. The rear of the train might have been in contact with a different section of third rail from the other side of the crossing that would be on a different circuit, while the front of the train entered the next section of third rail. But I had been told that if one contact shoe is in contact with a live third rail, then ALL of the shoes on the entire consist become electrified. So one could see that even though the third rail was lifted through the suv into the lead car and shorted out, the train could very well still have been electrified if the rear of the train was still in contact with the section of the third rail that exist before the crossing. Again, I don't know the area, and I'm not even sure if the entire train cleared the crossing. If it was going fast enough, then the distance it would take to stop would have allowed it to clear the crossing. But my understanding was that the train took around two car lengths to stop. Anyone with knowledge of that can feel free to share.

On a side note, people must refrain from panicking so quickly and rushing to judgement that electric 3 rd rail powered trains are inherently dangerous. They are not. This was a freak accident with all the wrong things occurring at the right time to create this tragedy. For years, there have been accidents involving cars and MU's on the LIRR and MNR and nothing like this ever happened. A major revamp of the area of this particular crossing should be completed as quickly as possible to prevent another accident from happening. Also, education seems to be lacking these days. I remember that when I was younger, there were always reminders of the dangers of railroad tracks and all crossings. I don't see that as much these days, and I feel that the public is a little more oblivious to the dangers that exist, especially in our cell phone/ text messaging world that we live in.
  by RearOfSignal
 
Even if 3rd rail power is cut, lights stay on for quite some time on the M7s because of the batteries. But HVAC blowers will shut off immediately once 3rd rail power is lost. One shoe on 3rd rail makes all shoes on the pair hot, not the consist. Each pair can be isolated.
  by Ridgefielder
 
pnaw10 wrote:Prediction: grade crossings within third-rail territory will be eliminated.

Initial (and also cheap) solution will be to simply wall-off streets with jersey barriers. Yes, the dead-ends will be inconvenient for awhile as people get used to finding the next-closest overpass crossing, but I predict lawmakers will frame it as an extra few minutes out of the way being better than risking another grade crossing crash. Kinda like when some of the at-grade intersections on the Taconic were eliminated years ago, by placing a barrier over the center median. Not sure if any of those intersections were in Westchester but I know there were a handful in Dutchess County.

Long-term, If it's ultimately decided that these streets need to be reopened... I'm not sure. First idea I had would be to elevate it like the LIRR Babylon Branch. But I know the Harlem Line has a pretty slim footprint in some areas of Westchester, so building new tracks next to the old ones may not be possible everywhere. Pulling this off might require closing one track in order to remove it and build the elevated structure, then repeat with the opposite track. One track serving both directions (for perhaps a year or more) would make things very difficult. This would be the most expensive, most complicated and most disruptive option.

On the other side of the spectrum, another possible solution may be to convert the line from third rail to catenary. This might be cheaper than building elevated tracks (and stations) and removing the old ones. But there would still be grade crossings -- just no third rail. As someone said a few pages back, there's still fire/shock hazards from catenary, though I'd imagine it would be considerably more difficult for a crash to cause the wires to fall down, as opposed to a car being pushed into a third rail. Other complications here include the need for more M8s and a sudden overstock of M7As, which would be relegated to the Hudson Line only. And, they'd have to trim or eliminate quite a few trees to avoid having trees fall on the lines... that might be a NIMBY hot button.

I'm not even going anywhere CLOSE to suggesting an "open cut" option à la the existing ROW through The Bronx. Would be expensive (moreso than an elevated line) and ugly.

Also, whatever happened to Operation Lifesaver? Does that still exist? I can't remember the last time I was exposed to any Operation Lifesaver ads or PSAs on TV, radio, online or in the newspaper. Maybe it's time to bring that back and refresh people on the basics of RR grade crossing safety.
Where on earth do you think the MTA or the State of New York are going to come up with the extra few billion dollars or so that you'd need to grade-separate the Harlem Division or replace the third rail w catenary-- and buy a new MU fleet? They're having trouble enough funding the existing capital plan.
  by F-line to Dudley via Park
 
pnaw10 wrote:Prediction: grade crossings within third-rail territory will be eliminated.

Initial (and also cheap) solution will be to simply wall-off streets with jersey barriers. Yes, the dead-ends will be inconvenient for awhile as people get used to finding the next-closest overpass crossing, but I predict lawmakers will frame it as an extra few minutes out of the way being better than risking another grade crossing crash. Kinda like when some of the at-grade intersections on the Taconic were eliminated years ago, by placing a barrier over the center median. Not sure if any of those intersections were in Westchester but I know there were a handful in Dutchess County.

Long-term, If it's ultimately decided that these streets need to be reopened... I'm not sure. First idea I had would be to elevate it like the LIRR Babylon Branch. But I know the Harlem Line has a pretty slim footprint in some areas of Westchester, so building new tracks next to the old ones may not be possible everywhere. Pulling this off might require closing one track in order to remove it and build the elevated structure, then repeat with the opposite track. One track serving both directions (for perhaps a year or more) would make things very difficult. This would be the most expensive, most complicated and most disruptive option.

On the other side of the spectrum, another possible solution may be to convert the line from third rail to catenary. This might be cheaper than building elevated tracks (and stations) and removing the old ones. But there would still be grade crossings -- just no third rail. As someone said a few pages back, there's still fire/shock hazards from catenary, though I'd imagine it would be considerably more difficult for a crash to cause the wires to fall down, as opposed to a car being pushed into a third rail. Other complications here include the need for more M8s and a sudden overstock of M7As, which would be relegated to the Hudson Line only. And, they'd have to trim or eliminate quite a few trees to avoid having trees fall on the lines... that might be a NIMBY hot button.

I'm not even going anywhere CLOSE to suggesting an "open cut" option à la the existing ROW through The Bronx. Would be expensive (moreso than an elevated line) and ugly.

Also, whatever happened to Operation Lifesaver? Does that still exist? I can't remember the last time I was exposed to any Operation Lifesaver ads or PSAs on TV, radio, online or in the newspaper. Maybe it's time to bring that back and refresh people on the basics of RR grade crossing safety.
Now we're in knee-jerk overreaction territory.

How exactly does one propose to eliminate or wall off those crossings? 7 out of 9 of them in 3rd rail territory are parkway entrance/exit roads exactly like this. Narrow streets, bad-angle intersections with the parkways(s), totally inadequate queue lengths for keeping off the crossings when the parkway backs up, very limited running space for putting a road bridge over the tracks with adequate sightlines for the queues at the parkway entrance or adequately gentle grades to prevent a spinout into the line of stopped cars entering the parkway in icy weather. But...usually the primary access point for a bunch of houses that often don't have secondary access without going up steep hills on single-lane roads with hairpin turns. And usually the fastest access for emergency vehicles up those narrow streets who'd have a hell of a time reaching those neighborhoods from the hills and hairpin turns on the 'backside'.

Has it occurred that the reason these crossings are the last stragglers in Westchester is because they're really difficult and/or unappealing eliminations that would get a lot of residential opposition for messing with the local access (and not for totally frivolous reasons, either)?

I think NYS is going to have to take a deep and serious look at improving some of those parkway intersections. If you've got a queue routinely backing up over the tracks on streets with such inadequate dimensions there's little margin for error, you've got a road design problem and a level-of-service problem first and foremost that needs attention pronto. Quad gates, early warnings, blah blah blah...if the intersection itself is a case study in bad traffic engineering, it is not going to be a safe intersection whether you take the tracks out of the picture or not. The intersection itself is going to kill and maim more people than the grade crossing does. But of course Sen. Schumer doesn't start flapping his gums into a microphone every time somebody gets taken in an ambulance for a sideswipe at a merge or rear-ender from a blind angle. These would be deathtrap intersections all the same with an eliminated crossing. Maybe worse so if sightlines were compromised by an overhead rail bridge or steep road bridge incline. Do we want to pat ourselves on the back chanting "NO MORE TRAINS!" but leave behind a higher rate of injury, or do we actually want to accomplish something for safety?


It's attacking the wrong problem to treat this as a railroad problem. Treat the aggregate safety. Priorities 1, 2, 3, and whatever is going to involve fixing the bad design of the intersections and their approaches BEFORE eliminating the grade crossings even enters the conversation. If aggregate safety truly is your goal instead of making an example out of the RR because "roads are free" or something like that, then that's where the resources have to be mustered FIRST for doing the most good. The rail component can be outfitting these 7 parkway-entrance crossings in Westchester with the best crossing protection and advance warning technology available. It exists; installed correctly it can provide a crucial extra layer of caution without messing with train service.


Also...no crossing on the Harlem Line rises to level of importance of the Top 10 worst on LIRR. Especially those mission-critical Main Line Seven between Floral Park and Hicksville that aren't funded, but have to go simply because road and rail won't be able to handle the post-ESA traffic levels on those tracks without full-on elimination. So if we're going knee-jerk and all of a sudden fund mass eliminations, where are they going to start first? Not the Harlem Line. OK...maybe you make a symbolic elimination of this one. But that's all Westchester's going to get for 25 more years with all the design-builds of far more consequential eliminations on Long Island that would have to grind to completion. And that's WITH a hypothetical unlimited funding environment that we know doesn't exist in real life. Simple logistics says they're going to have to wait their turn.


And yes, third rail vs. overhead is the wrong question entirely. You could game out 50 scenarios where there'd be just as much death onboard a diesel in a similar situation that checked off the right combination in right sequence of pure one-in-50-million bad luck. Absolutely design a better third rail breakaway...just like they designed better wire clips and better pantographs every time in history a train's roof has gone up in flames from a torn wire. That's how the history of engineering evolves to make for better infrastructure; failures are sometimes more instructive than successes. But the means of power collection is pretty irrelevant to aggregate safety so long as you can't eliminate a "@#$% Happens" statistical possibility with any one type of motive power means at a crossing accident. And you just can't. We'd be banning freight trains, diesel push-pulls, DMU's, and trackmobiles all the same because there is always a combination of perfect-storm conditions with statistical possibility of carnage. Much better to let the autos share in the fun while we're number-crunching for freak events. We know which mode is going to win the "@#$% Happens" numbers game in a rout.
  by SemperFidelis
 
For a sober (that ought to disqualify it from being read by more than a few) and interesting, albeit far too brief, statistical take on the grade crossing in question versus some others nearby, Five Thirty Eight has posted this-

http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/what ... rash-site/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

-little piece.

Thoughts and prayers to ALL involved.

And yes, people should know more about trains than they do, but most of us (dare I say), lack the proper levels of training in thousands of dangerous activities for us to perform said activities safely. World's never gonna be perfect and most people will never know 1/10 as much about railroads as the least knowing amongst us here does. People are dead and many, many people are waking up for the first morning without them. A situation that needs no "she was stupid" comments, yet somehow has earned more than one.

With no sarcasm intended at all, thank you moderator for trying to keep this classier than most fatality threads. A decent move respected admirably by all but the simplest of forum members.
  by EuroStar
 
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote: OK...maybe you make a symbolic elimination of this one. But that's all Westchester's going to get for 25 more years with all the design-builds of far more consequential eliminations on Long Island that would have to grind to completion. And that's WITH a hypothetical unlimited funding environment that we know doesn't exist in real life. Simple logistics says they're going to have to wait their turn.
I do not know the traffic patterns in the area, but to me it seems that there is definitely enough space for a street overpass over the tracks and the Taconic. Such an overpass will eliminate the crossing and the intersection with the Taconic which just by itself seems an accident waiting to happen. I suspect that an overpass will cost somewhere on the order of $25-25MM which even though not cheap is probably doable. Eliminating the next crossing south at Lakeview is much harder and probably requires closing of the street, but with an overpass on Commerce that should not be too difficult to do. I am not holding my breath though. Last time the LIRR magled a car at the crossing nothing happened.
  by BenH
 
Is that a section of the 3rd rail that this worker is cutting?!

Note: Fair-use low-resolution image attached. The original high-resolution image can be found on this link:
http://static1.nydailynews.com/polopoly ... -wreck.jpg

The original Daily News story, with the image, is on this link:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nts ... -1.2102750

::
  by Jeff Smith
 
Semper Fi, thanks for that awesome link to a dispassionate anyalysis. One hates to think that this boils down to basic numbers and economics, but it's a good model.

Some interesting snippetsfrom the analysis:
...

Authorities knew the crossing had the potential to be hazardous. A predictive model developed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) estimated that there was a 3 percent probability of a collision at the site in any given year. That’s the ninth-highest accident probability of any of Metro-North’s 44 rail crossings in New York and ranks higher than 90 percent of the state’s 2,675 crossings.

...

...Among commuter-rail crossings, the Islip Avenue crossing in Central Islip on Long Island has the highest probability of a collision at 17.4 percent per year. Compared with those crossings, Metro-North’s aren’t considered particularly risky by the model; the system’s riskiest New York crossing is on Jay Street in Katonah, also in Westchester County, with a collision probability of 4.3 percent. (The railroad has three higher-risk crossings in Connecticut.)

...
  by geico
 
BenH wrote:Is that a section of the 3rd rail that this worker is cutting?!

Note: Fair-use low-resolution image attached. The original high-resolution image can be found on this link:
http://static1.nydailynews.com/polopoly ... -wreck.jpg

The original Daily News story, with the image, is on this link:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nts ... -1.2102750

::
Yes, I am very curious to see how that much third rail managed to get thru the first car and actually pierce the 2nd.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
One big problem with future changes to this crossing, or other Harlem Line grade crossings is, as everyone should be aware, it is already very hard to fund all the needed infrastructure repairs and renewals. There are a lot of important projects trying to get funds, the list is endless: everything from bridges to sewers. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates, "Driving on roads in need of repair costs New York motorists $5.7 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $504.90 per motorist."

I expect as the furor and interest in this accident recedes over the next few months so too will demands the crossing be eliminated. Fixing the Commerce Street grade crossing will just be added to the very long list of, "Things We Need To Do."
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