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Rail News: Passenger Rail

BART to train operators through virtual operations, simulators


In 1997, it took nine weeks of intensive classwork and on-the-job training to prepare a person to operate a train at Bay Area Rapid Transit. Today, it takes 15 weeks — and that’s still not enough, says General Manager Thomas Margro. So BART’s looking into virtual training with a full-scale simulator.

The agency, in partnership with Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Cabot-Las Positas Community College and the Economic Development Alliance for Business (EDAB) will be seeking funds to develop a BART Train Operator Training Simulator (TOTS).

"Simulating the operation of a train and all of the functions that must be performed in any given situation will accelerate the trainee’s experience and comfort level for actual operation," said BART Board Vice President Peter Snyder in a prepared statement.

The idea for the project began in February 1998 with a $40,000 grant from EDAB and $20,000 from BART to conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine what facets of the existing training program could be simulated and what benefits would be produced.

The TOTS program’s second phase was to develop computer modules with software that concentrated on a few areas of an operator’s training cycle. One area, train movement in switching yards, included the process to couple and uncouple cars, and move cars across switches.

Development of the modules’ architecture took about a year and was funded by a $600,000, two-year Cabot-Las Positas Community College District grant.

In the project’s third phase, BART plans to will purchase a simulator or have one designed to meet the agency’s needs at a cost estimated between $500,000 and $3 million.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/21/2002