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Rail News: Safety

WMATA mulls increased yard supervision, LED lights to reduce stop signal violations

A breakdown of WMATA's stop signal overruns by year
Photo – FTA's stop signal overrun report

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's (WMATA) safety department has recommended that the agency increase yard supervision to prevent train operators from running red signals.

The department suggested prioritizing supervision at the Alexandria, Shady Grove and Brentwood yards, where operators have most frequently ignored red signals.

The measure is one of several recommendations issued as part of the department's review of red signal violations. The review followed the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) August safety directive requiring the agency to address stop signal overruns in its rail system.

A stop signal overrun occurs when a train fails to stop as required in advance of a stop signal, flag or other indicator. At WMATA, these violations are primarily caused by operator inattention or confusion, lack of familiarity with mainline and yard territory, or unclear communications between operators and controllers, according to the safety department's report.

The review also found that several mainline red signal violations occur outdoors where lighting may play a role. So, the safety department recommended installing LED bulbs and evaluate repositioning signals or adding repeater signals on the train operator's side of the cab where necessary.

Stations where stop signal violations occur most frequently are scheduled to receive new LED bulbs by the end of 2016, according to the report.

WMATA's safety department also suggested the agency restrict maximum attainable speed on trains.

Yesterday, the department yesterday presented its findings and recommendations to WMATA's board.

Meanwhile, the FTA Administrator Carolyn Flowers on Wednesday said that despite WMATA's safety improvements, it remains a "long and difficult task" to improve the agency's safety culture.

Flowers made the comment in a "Fast Lane" blog post, where she highlighted the progress that WMATA has made since the FTA assumed direct safety oversight one year ago.

"In that short time, FTA has provided more thorough safety oversight over WMATA than it has ever received," she wrote.

Flowers noted that WMATA has improved safety at its rail operations control center, where all rail traffic controllers have completed annual recertifications for the first time since 2012. The Washington, D.C.-area transit agency also has retrained and certified nearly 2,000 employees on roadway worker protection.

Flowers reiterated the need for Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia to create a new state safety oversight agency to take over the FTA's interim role. The FTA is preparing for the transition to occur early next year, she said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/28/2016