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APTA Rail 2019 Recap – The Importance of Safety, Data, Technology, and Your Communities

Jul 12, 2019
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If I could impart with you the most important lesson from the recent APTA Rail Conference, it’s that rail is at the center of it all. Rail drives economic and community development. By harnessing technology to provide a safer service and leveraging your data correctly to make those informed business decisions, you can offer the best service for your passengers – one where they’ll be hard-pressed to think of a better way to commute.

Let’s dive into the key themes that were discussed at APTA Rail.

Safety – Are You Prepared for Positive Train Control and Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan Deadlines?

Safety has been a prominent topic within the rail space for some time. (We’ve talked about it several times ourselves – like here talking about rail safety in general, or here relating to hours of service, or here when discussing safety-critical systems like PTC.) This year, it resonated throughout APTA Rail.

Positive train control (PTC) and safety management plans are at the top of mind for all railroads since both deadlines are just around the corner in 2020. Are you prepared? If you’re not, this webinar hosted by my colleague Brett Koenig explains how to get started. 

Technology – Tools to Make Your Operations Safer and More Efficient

Transit technology comes in so many shapes and forms. But, with safety being your number one priority, there were many ideas shared at APTA Rail around leveraging technology to make your operations safer and more efficient. Here are a few highlights:

  • Remote condition monitoring of wayside equipment and onboard subsystems to prevent asset failure with real-time information, increase asset life span, and increase the safety and availability of the service
  • Asset management and the continuous process to drive the state of good repair
  • Condition-based maintenance to reduce the frequency of manual inspections, identify performance trends, and proactively plan maintenance based on the condition of the asset
  • Artificial intelligence to influence many aspects of your operations – train control, scheduling optimization, object identification (person vs. object in guideway intrusion systems), and facial recognition (video cameras for security)

Data – Breaking Down Silos to Untap Your Potential

Data is at the heart of everything you do. So many elements of your rail operations are now trackable. Understanding the data gathered from your operations helps you make better business decisions.

One of the challenges expressed at ATPA Rail is how software solutions, like many departments within your railroad, are siloed. These silos make it challenging to use your data to its potential. Additionally, real-time multimodal information is going to be key moving forward since it addresses your riders’ desires for a multimodal experience, and it will provide your railroad with a better understanding of your entire operations. It’s becoming evident that you need a single database to capture your data so you can see the correlations of how your data and decisions affect your railroad.

Rail Impacts Your Community – Mobility, Economic Value, and Rider Experience

Investing in rail means investing in your community. The UK and Australia show the economic impact and growth of a community when a new station is developed. At APTA Rail, Scott Smith, CEO at Valley Metro, showed how this trend is true in North America, celebrating Valley Metro’s rail-versary and discussing how Phoenix’s development has been transit-oriented.

There is also a dynamic relationship at play with intercity and high-speed rail and developing new cities or areas away from busy downtown cores. The development of new rail systems provides people the opportunity for mobility. And that relationship between transportation and city planning has never been more important.

When developing new areas (or refurbishing old ones), city building and transportation impact one another significantly – proper integration between the two is vital. By working together, they can increase safety (pedestrian spaces) and reduce the carbon footprint by having more people use public transit. This also reduces congestion allowing transportation to become more efficient. Is there really any better harmonious relationship than that – one that improves the mobility, economic value, and experience for your community?

It was great to discuss these ideas at APTA Rail – but let’s not end the discussion here. Check out these exclusive digital resources that will help you create a safer railroad, navigate P3s, meet PTC deadlines, and more.

Paola Realpozo is the product director for rail solutions at Trapeze Group North America. Paola is responsible for ensuring that Trapeze's enterprise rail solutions are continuously evolving to meet the changing needs of their customers and the market. Prior to joining Trapeze Group, she was director of marketing at LILEE Systems where she was responsible for LILEE’s global go-to-market strategy within the rail and bus space. Prior to LILEE Systems, Paola held various marketing, program management and product development roles within RailComm, Mexican Class 1 railroad Ferromex/Ferrosur, Mabe, and ITX Corp. Paola co-authored a paper, “Condition Based Monitoring for Mainline Power Switch and Interlocking,” that was presented at The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) Annual Conference. In 2010, Paola received an MBA from the Simon Graduate School of Business in Rochester, NY, and a Bachelor of Science in electronic and communications engineering from the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM) in Mexico City, Mexico.
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