SETPA's wire train and crew at work. Photos courtesy: SEPTA
Maintaining just basic levels of service with an aging, and often failing, infrastructure is a challenge many legacy transportation agencies across the country struggle with on a daily basis. And, funding shortages often leave transit organizations battling to provide reliable service while identifying and making only the most needed and cost-effective repairs.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.
“We performed an analysis of the failures and determined that the entire OCS needed to be replaced,” said SEPTA Deputy GM Jeff Knueppel. “Our crews were excellent at responding to and patching the failures, but we could not reduce their rate of incidence. Not only did we need to obtain the funding for materials and train workers for the replacement, we also needed to devise a plan that would allow us to replace the catenary while keeping the Regional Rail lines in service for our passengers.”
Fast-forward 15 years and the SEPTA Power Department is celebrating the renewal of 150 miles of overhead catenary, completing most work at night or during mid-day service outages. Five OCS lines have been completely replaced, three have been partially replaced and two will be completed over the next two years.
SEPTA’s failure analysis determined the project’s priorities and the work was/is being completed by the authority’s in-house forces. “Our Power Department examined the skill level of our crews and the ability of the equipment we already had to determine what we were going to need to complete the work,” said Knueppel.
Maintenance crews had electrical training and took Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee (NORAC) and Roadway Worker classes. A training program for lineman was also implemented.
“We streamlined the way our projects were completed,” said Knueppel. “Instead of preparing components in the field, our fabrication crew and overhead maintainers assemble and bundle the hangars at our fabrication shop. We also designed and developed new platform tower cars with infrared heaters that allow crews to continue working in cold temperatures.”
A modified open gondola car stores old wire without crews having to cut it into smaller sections. Together, the open gondola and tower cars allow crews to safely and effectively remove, replace and store OCS wire and hardware. The benefits of replacing the OCS can be seen in SEPTA’s Regional Rail ridership increase.
“Over the past 15 years, our catenary-component related failures are down drastically,” said Knueppel. “This work was among several key initiatives that allowed railroad ridership to grow 50 percent in this same time period. The investment in our infrastructure was done out of necessity, but has proven to be invaluable.”
It is the early 2000s, and as the sun rises over Southern California, most people are still fast asleep. Kristian Mendoza, however, is up and getting ready for work. He doesn’t have to be in until eight, but his commute can sometimes take up to an hour-and-a-half each way. This job pays so little that he can barely afford the gas to commute to it, let alone provide the time and care he would like for his two young children.
One pioneer in the healthcare transportation segment, One Call Care Management (“One Call”), is harnessing the power of ride-sharing technology in order to eliminate the issues that have historically plagued this area of the market, while also providing a better overall experience for the patient and the payer.
A goal of SEPTA’s safety initiatives is to have customers and employees take the messages presented by the authority’s safety personnel back to their homes, their workplaces and communities to help the agency's safety culture evolve and grow.
...as a transportation planner who has worked on bus rapid transit-style systems in the greater Washington region, I’ve noticed a disconnect in the public’s expectations versus the reality of the systems they’re getting. It got me wondering: do people have an accurate picture of what BRT means or the benefits the systems provide? During public-planning sessions, I’ve heard a lot of feedback on BRT. The gist is, “That’s really nice that the bus is a different color and the station platform is fancy, but I just want it to be on time.”
After acts of terrorism — domestic or international — law enforcement agencies are almost always asked: “How are you ‘ramping up’ your security efforts?”