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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

LA Metro Gold Line Extension designed/built to operate safely

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An independent panel of rail transit safety experts has concluded that the new Metro Gold Line to East Los Angeles has been designed and built to operate safely. The report comes as Metro continues testing trains and training operators for service, which is expected to begin this fall on an extension of the Metro Gold Line, which now connects downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena.

The six-mile extension will feature eight new stations (two underground) between Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and Atlantic/Pomona boulevards in East Los Angeles via Little Tokyo, the Arts District and Boyle Heights. A third of the Eastside alignment is underground.

New Metro CEO Art Leahy asked three renowned rail safety and operations experts from across the country, who have a combined total of more than 100 years of experience, to do a critical review of the Eastside Extension and advise if its safety features were sufficient. In late June and early July of this year the panel spent a week studying every aspect of the new Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension including rides on test trains.

The panel included Cameron Beach, a member of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, who also spent two decades with the Sacramento Regional Transit District and Rail Technology, Inc.; Peter Tereschuck, a senior operations engineer and transportation manager who oversaw the startup of the San Diego Trolley and worked on rail lines in South New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York as well as Miami, Fla.; and Harry Saporta, a safety consultant who served as the director of the Federal Transit Administration's Office of Safety and Security and who also was a former manager of System Safety Programs for the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District in Portland, Ore., and a senior engineering manager specializing in safety and security for Parsons Brinckerhoff.

"The operational characteristics of the Eastside Extension are not unlike many other light rail operating environments in the United States," according to the panel report. "It has been designed to be a safe, efficient and effective extension of the Pasadena Gold Line. The at-grade crossings have incorporated design features to promote the safe movement of trains and motor vehicles through these intersections."

The rail safety panel also noted the street running segment of the Metro Gold Line extension, where trains operate in the middle of the street at no more than 35 miles-per-hour within the posted speed limit for vehicular traffic, is typical of many light rail lines in North America that operate without any crossing gates.

Safety experts also praised Metro's safety outreach program as "outstanding and a model for the rail transit industry."

However, the panel suggested additional safety enhancements such as installing fencing in areas where frequent jaywalking is observed, installing raised buttons or rumble strips and reflective pavement markers so motor vehicles don't accidentally intrude on the trainway, reduce warning sign clutter and working closely with law enforcement to strongly enforce the "Stop Here" and "Keep Clear" requirements.

Metro is heeding the panel's recommendations. It also has deployed safety ambassadors to help educate the public and is putting in traffic enforcement cameras at 14 intersections. For weeks Sheriff's and LAPD officers also have been patrolling the light rail alignment.

For months Metro has been conducting a series of tests of multiple safety and communications systems and has now started pre-revenue operations that will familiarize operators with the station stops and procedures. A date for the start of revenue operations will soon be announced.

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