Smoother Rides Coming to the Red Line Monday when automatic train operation return

Photo by PoPville flickr user James Calder


“Following years of signal upgrades, rigorous independent testing, and the successful closure of key NTSB safety recommendations, Metro will return the Red Line to automatic train operation (ATO) on Monday, April 13, Metro Deputy General Manager Rob Troup announced today.

“The return of automatic train operation on the Red Line is a significant safety milestone for Metro,” said Troup. “I want to thank our riders for their forbearance through years of work, often on weekends, to allow us the track access necessary to perform essential signal upgrades.”

Only eight-car trains will run in automatic mode initially; six-car trains will continue to operate in manual mode. A future software upgrade on Metro’s existing railcar fleet will allow six-car trains to return to automatic mode at a later date.

Metro’s five other rail lines (Orange, Silver, Blue, Yellow and Green) are currently undergoing track-circuit module replacement projects, and a return to automatic train operation on these lines is expected in late 2017.

In automatic mode, trains accelerate, decelerate and stop under computer control, resulting in consistent ride quality and improved efficiency across the line. Train operators will continue to ride in the cab of each train, and will have responsibility for opening and closing doors and making announcements, even when operating in automatic mode.”

20 Comment

  • I *want* to like this…but the pessimist in me is scared.

  • Accountering

    Dare say this is the best news we have gotten out of metro… At least during this century?

  • west_egg

    I’m glad to see progress but this is disappointing.
    Aside from the smooth ride, the main benefit to automatic operation is reduced headways between trains and greater throughput. If half (or more) of your trains are still manual then there is no benefit. Further, since operators can’t be trusted to remember how many cars they’re pulling 6-car trains will still pull all the way to the front of the platform. Transferring to SG-bound Red line trains at Gallery Place will involve the same ridiculous crush at rush hour.
    Six-car trains will return to automatic mode “at a later date” — how typically vague of you, Metro. Nevermind the 2.5 years the other lines will be waiting.

    • Also if half (or more) of the trains are still manual…I’m slightly worried about how SOME trains being manual and SOME being automatic will work, while running on the same tracks.

    • “half the trains?” Seems like 25% of trains at best are 8-car trains. I remember hearing they were going to be a third of trains during rush hour, but there’s no way that’s true. I catch an 8-car train maybe once a week.

    • Agree all. However, I think even when the entire system is back to 100% automatic *operation*, every 6 car train will still pull all the way up. As I understand it, the automatic doors are a completely different system than the automatic operation, but the door system was also disabled for safety concerns. So even with the computers doing the driving, the conductor still will have to poke their head out, wait 5 sec, and open the doors manually. Pulling all the way up is the only way to foolproof manual door opening. The transfer to SG Red at Gallery will suck for decades until the system is all 8-car trains, if ever.

      • west_egg

        Interesting theory. I thought the only reason they pull all the way to the end is because of incidents where operators of 8-car trains stopped in the 6-car position and opened the doors with the last car still in the tunnel. So if the computer is in charge it should (theoretically) know how many cars are on the train and therefore where to stop. But its always safest to assume the worst with Metro.

        • To clarify, the *driving* computer does know where it is on the platform, but the separate automatic *door* computer has other issues. I it had to do with opening the wrong side occasionally. This is in addition to the problem of conductors in manual forgetting how many cars they have. So, the only foolproof solution to both was pulling all the way forward, conductors visually inspecting the alignment, and then manually opening the doors on the platform side. Just found the article I read on it:

        • This is correct. Under manual operation, a few drivers stopped 8-car trains in the six-car train stopping spot, causing doors to open with the tail end of the train still in the tunnel. To ensure this doesn’t happen, all trains under manual operation pull to the front of the platform. However, I don’t see why that would be the case once all trains return to automatic control; I’m not sure where sproc got that impression but it doesn’t sound right to me.

          • If you read the link, there’s another link in the article to a Post article that explains it. Again, while they’re both part of the overall automatic controls, it’s two separate issues.

  • How is it that a software update takes longer than physically upgrading the signals?

  • hooville

    “at a later date” meaning what… ? A year from now? They couldn’t get the software update sometime in the last few YEARS while they were doing the physical changes? Ugh, the incompetence.

  • Thank god. Red line operation has been comical, especially with the station approaches.

  • Hallelujah!

  • I was excited until I read the part that says this is only for 8 cars…. when most of the trains are 6 cars… Sigh.

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