BART To Develop Innovative Trackside Safety Technology

Feb. 17, 2015

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded to BART a $5 million grant to develop a new technology to protect trackside workers. The concept is to develop a system that goes far beyond existing trackside alarm technology – a device that would automatically stop an approaching train.

“We have high hopes for this project,” said BART Board President Tom Blalock. “Not only could it save lives here at BART, but we believe it can also protect track workers at any rail system nationwide once we have successfully demonstrated this technology.”

The two-year project is scheduled to start with system development and to end with a final demonstration. The idea is to link trackside workers' warning devices with trains and the BART Operations Control Center.  If a worker does not actively acknowledge a device's warning, the safety system would automatically stop an approaching train before it can enter the worker's safety zone.

BART sought the federal grant as part of its ongoing commitment to safety. The transit agency’s efforts received strong support from U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D-13th District), U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-15th District)  and U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-17th District).

“I am pleased that BART has been selected to receive this important safety funding,” said Congresswoman Lee. “These funds will provide BART workers with needed security as they fulfill their duties to ensure safe, reliable and environmentally-friendly transit around East Bay and the entire region.”

To date, no other safety system BART has examined provides failsafe protection of trackside workers.  So, until this system can be successfully developed, demonstrated, and eventually put into use, BART will continue to follow requirements of the California Public Utilities Commission’s  General Order 175 to impose train speed restrictions in trackside work zones, which sometimes creates delays for customers.  However, if the program to develop a new safety system is successful, it’s anticipated that BART would be able to maintain trackside worker safety without impacting customers.