Friday, June 1, 2007

Service Disruption

I'm sure many of you have been the lucky commuter on a light rail train or bus that has encountered some newfangled problem getting you from point A to point B. Whether it be a wheelchair lift stuck in the out and up position, or a door that wont close on the train we have all been affected in one way or another by a "Service Disruption".

Generally speaking, when something stops the wheels of a bus from moving the fix is relatively easy with instructions from a supervisor. In worst cases, when a bus absolutely refuses to crawl another inch it's not so bad since sending another bus is as easy as sending a driver out with a new bus. You may be a little late and irritated, but at least you will be on your way.....eventually.

When it comes to Light Rail, problems are a little more complicated to troubleshoot and sort out. Not only are we dealing with the Light Rail trains themselves but we also are dealing with overhead power lines, substations, track switches, signaling, and electricity. When problems arise, Light Rail supervisors crawl out of the ballast to offer help which is why the problems on the train are usually short lived short of a major incident.

Here are a few examples of minor situations that cause "Service Disruption"-
(considering my rookie status as a Light Rail driver)

When the wind blows too hard, the train loses connection to the overhead wire system that powers the system. When this happens, all kinds of systems need to be reset, checked and rechecked again by yours truly before the train will move again.

Same goes when the weather in Sacramento reaches upwards of 100 degrees. The wires that supply power to the train gain some slack caused by the heat, and in turn lose connection with the train at high speed.

And finally, teaching a Spanish engineer how to Speak German, and a German engineer how to speak Spanish.

At RT, I drive 2 types of Light Rail trains. The old school Siemens cars (German) and the new school CAF cars (Spanish).

When the German cars play strictly with the other German cars, all is good.

When the Spanish cars only boogie with the other Spanish cars life is great.

When you mix the two, most of the time all hell breaks loose. For some reason, they just don't know how to communicate with one another. It seems that they play nice for a few trips, and then one says something to the other and neither of them want to play anymore.

I'm not sure why RT insists on mixing the two, but as the weather gets warmer we can look forward to some good old fashioned German-Spanish culture immersion.

1 comment:

John said...

I've had a couple run-ins with late light rail trains heading toward Folsom. In one case the train was 13 minutes late. (And, no, it wasn't that the train was really two minutes early.) I would like to see the installation of a message system that would alert riders to delays.

I would like to see a message board system like BART's, but a number to call for recorded messages (something direct, not part of the BUSS kiss-off system). Dial the direct number. Get general status message and invitation to enter specific route number. If maintained properly -- messages about street construction causing delays, trains on the fritz, etc. -- it could be a valuable help in calming riders.

At least if you know there is a delay, you can plan for it. In the case of the missing train, I was concerned that the entire line was dead.