Five Points Station is the main hub for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. (Photo: Sean Pavone, Shutterstock)

Atlanta Transit Authority Deploys Technology to Protect Rail Workers

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is partnering with Bombardier Transportation to deploy TrackSafe Technology to protect rail workers.

According to Federal Transit Administration statistics, between 2003 and 2008, 53 percent of reported rail transit worker fatalities were right-of-way related incidents. Track workers need advance warning of an approaching train, and train operators require advance warning of workers’ presence. TrackSafe creates improved location awareness for track workers and train operators through the use of Radio Frequency Identification and other advanced technologies. TrackSafe also provides relevant alerts to track workers and train operators in real time.

(Photo: Bombardier)

“TrackSafe really has three purposes. It provides warning for people as the train approaches and it provides control over access to the right-of-way and to the rail control as well as keeping the real-time position as to where the train is actually on,” said Mark Willer, product manager-technology solutions, Bombardier Transportation.

When MARTA and Bombardier Transportation began its partnership they designed a program that would be most effective for the worker population.

“We sat down with our boots on the ground and tried to develop something that works for us and made it a little more acceptable for us to deploy,” said Abhay “A.J.” Joshi, program manager for MARTA. “We actually got a prototype and did a demonstration for the FTA. We did the Red Line, which is the northernmost line of our system. We chose that track to show a lot of different nuances. We looked at a lot of different situations. We decided to go with power from Bombardier. We accepted their implementation plan and we are about two months in.”

Willer said that the warning lights can be programmed to utilize different colors and can flash to represent different meanings for those on the tracks. When a worker is assigned to a task they are able to check in at the Wayside Access Unit.

“The check-in knows what you are going to be doing, what you will be working on and where,” said Willer.

Another screen confirms that the worker has all of the necessary safety equipment and tools that will be needed to complete the work.

“One of the things that we’ve done with TrackSafe is make it very easy to replace. You literally unplug it and there are two bolts. You’re not talking about any extra equipment,” Willer said. “If there is a piece not working, Bombardier will know probably before MARTA does and we’ll know that piece of equipment needs to be changed. That being said, the whole design philosophy is that we over-inspect things so that it will last 10 or 20 years.”

MARTA is completing its installation of TrackSafe, testing the technology, putting together a training course, and reviewing the system. MARTA plans to demonstrate the technology at a conference in October.

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