Today’s Headlines

  • It Just Got Harder to Clean Up Albany (NYT 1, 2; News 1, 2)
  • SUV Driver Kills Man Crossing East Tremont Ave; NYPD: Crash Appears to Be “Accidental” (News)
  • Richard Rojas Pleads Not Guilty to Murder for Times Square Motor Rampage (NYT, News, Post)
  • MTA Tells Queens Pols CBTC on the 7 Line Still on Schedule to Go Live This Year (QChron)
  • Bay Ridge Council Candidate John Quaglione — He’ll Go to the Mat for Free Parking! (Bklyn Eagle)
  • Review of Penn Station Concourses Will Proceed Without Tom Prendergast (Politico)
  • What WNYC Learned From Week 1 of the Summer of Hell
  • The Data in This Bike-Lanes-Boost-Property-Values Story Is Very Thin (DNA)
  • Driver Crashes Into West Brighton Nail Salon, One Injured (Advance)
  • FXFOWLE and SSE’s Vision for the Driverless Future Looks a Lot Like Streetopia (Crain’s)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Joe R.

    I got that number using open BVE with the E route. Using trains which I tuned to match the current, neutered acceleration rates and top speeds, and following current speed restrictions, my running time between Queens Plaza and Forest Hills was consistently around 12 minutes with a 30 second dwell at Roosevelt Avenue. The 14 minute schedules are during rush hours when the dwells might be longer. 12 minutes more or less represents the minimum possible schedule as things stand now.

    After that I tuned the train to match unfettered R160 performance and maximum speed. I also ignored any existing speed restrictions. I accelerated to 55 mph, held that speed until I needed to brake (this was maybe ~500 feet before I hit the platform), and used the same 30 second dwell at Roosevelt Avenue. Running time was consistently 8 minutes.

    Note there are no curves on the express run which would require slowing under 55 mph for safety reasons. If I recall, the QB line was actually laid out with 65 mph running in mind (which in reality would only shave a few seconds compared to 55 mph running).

  • Joe R.

    Well, you could have increased the emergency brake rates to higher values than the existing standard to compensate for the higher acceleration rates of the newer trains. I never understood why the MTA uses air only for emergency braking. Dynamic braking feeds the braking energy into the train’s resistor grid. My understanding is that it works even if the third rail is dead. They could have gotten considerably higher emergency brake rates using a combination of air and dynamics.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve been taking the #7 on and off for 38 years. I never recall any 36 tph service. The best I’ve seen have been trains spaced roughly 2 minutes apart. That more or less matches your 27 tph figure. Maybe they ran 30 tph at one time but I’m skeptical of 36 tph.

  • Andrew

    I got that number using open BVE with the E route.

    OpenBVE is a game. I’m not sure I’d put too much faith in the output of a game.

    Note there are no curves on the express run which would require slowing under 55 mph for safety reasons.

    There’s a pretty significant curve where the line transitions between Queens Boulevard and Broadway. As I’m not a signal engineer, I don’t know the maximum appropriate speed (not only to avoid a derailment but also to avoid throwing standees to the floor), but it may be considerably below 55 mph.

    If I recall, the QB line was actually laid out with 65 mph running in mind

    Seeing as the line was designed for the R1, which couldn’t possibly achieve anywhere near 65 mph on level track, I can’t imagine why this would have been the case. Do you have a source for this claim?

    (which in reality would only shave a few seconds compared to 55 mph running).

    I agree that 65 mph running would only shave a few seconds off of 55 mph running. So don’t you find it at all surprising that a slightly improved acceleration rate would, by your claim, shave 4 minutes off of current running times?

  • Andrew

    As I am not a signal engineer, I can’t say what braking rate would be necessary for your proposed strategy would be effective systemwide. I also can’t say whether that braking rate would be sustainable in inclement weather (and a signal system needs to be safe even in the rain), nor what impact it would have on wheel wear or rail wear, nor whether it would place standees at significantly increased risk of falls.

    So you’ll have to excuse me for being unwilling to assume that there was any realistic means of bringing the cars into compliance with the assumptions of the preexisting signal system short of slightly capping the acceleration rate.

  • sbauman

    it is far less costly to equip additional cars with CBTC

    According to the 2010-2014 Capital Program, the retrofit cost for the Flushing line comes to $500K per car. That’s 36 trainsets or $5M per train for the retrofit. That’s not including the new cars at $2.4M a pop.

    That comes to $3B to convert all 600 trainsets used in peak service. It does not include all of CBTC’s other equipment. That’s $17B, if the RPA’s $20B total estimate is correct. Compare this to $6.06B for a conventional upgrade/replacement plus a Tesla-like autonomous driverless capability.

    The current constraint is power, not cars…The current constraint is power, not cars.

    The power constraint is supposed to be limited to the tunnel. If that were really the only constraint, they could turn off the AC while in the tunnel.

    One of the previous excuses was the tunnel ventilation fans were not operating, so service had to be limited.

    The LIRR had to run simulations because there are new FRA regulations that limit the number of trains that can be in a tunnel. The ESA may not be able to handle 24 tph, because of these new regulations.

    If the MTA is applying these FRA regulations, what you currently have between Bedford and First Aves, is all you can expect.

  • Joe R.

    OpenBVE is a game. I’m not sure I’d put too much faith in the output of a game.

    Like all train simulators , it’s only as good as the accuracy of the routes and rolling stock people make. Most of the NYC subway routes for Open BVE match the distances, curves, and gradients of the real thing. My speeds on different portions of the route when running neutered equipment matched the real world.

    There’s a pretty significant curve where the line transitions between Queens Boulevard and Broadway. As I’m not a signal engineer, I don’t know the maximum appropriate speed (not only to avoid a derailment but also to avoid throwing standees to the floor), but it may be considerably below 55 mph.

    Not sure of that one. Banking can compensate for it anyway. The only inherent limit on banking is that you don’t want such steep banking that the equipment is in danger of tipping over if it stops on the curve.

    Seeing as the line was designed for the R1, which couldn’t possibly achieve anywhere near 65 mph on level track, I can’t imagine why this would have been the case.

    My mom used to work for the TA. I was able to talk to a few people about technical things. Correct about the R1 speeds but the IND was designed to be forward-looking. They had anticipated future equipment would be faster, and designed for it. I’m sure you remember the proposed 70 mph design speed for the SAS (and the R44s could achieve this).

    I agree that 65 mph running would only shave a few seconds off of 55 mph running. So don’t you find it at all surprising that a slightly improved acceleration rate would, by your claim, shave 4 minutes off of current running times?

    It’s a combination of higher acceleration rates and higher running speeds. As things stand now, trains run at or below 35 mph for most of the express run. At most they briefly hit about 45 mph, and then only for a few seconds. You also have a significant upgrade from Woodhaven Blvd to 67th Avenue. This slows the neutered trains down to about 30 mph by the time they hit 67th Avenue. Unneutered trains would be able to hold 55 mph all the way. Remember the R160s have 600 HP per car and only a fraction of that is needed to maintain 55 mph. There’s plenty of reserve power to hold speed on grades.

  • Joe R.

    Or you could do what every other transit system does and have the TOs run at appropriate speeds for the signal and braking systems. Sadly it seems the paranoid MTA doesn’t trust its TOs to do this.

  • Andrew

    According to the 2010-2014 Capital Program, the retrofit cost for the Flushing line comes to $500K per car.

    The R142A’s, as built, did not include interfaces for future CBTC components, an unfortunate decision which significantly drove up the cost of the R188 order. The R160’s have CBTC interfaces, making for a much simpler (and cheaper) retrofit process. I believe the R211’s will come with CBTC components from day one.

    The power constraint is supposed to be limited to the tunnel.

    Where on earth did you come up with that? Subway cars draw the most power as they accelerate from stops – a river tube, where trains are more widely spaced and aren’t typically stopping, is not at all likely to be the power system constraint.

    One of the previous excuses was the tunnel ventilation fans were not operating, so service had to be limited.

    In the 1990’s! The ventilation system was fixed in time for the 1999 Williamsburg Bridge shutdown, so that L service could be increased (to far less than what operates on the L today).

    If the MTA is applying these FRA regulations, what you currently have between Bedford and First Aves, is all you can expect.

    You’re grasping at straws. Most of the East River tubes already see more frequent service than the Canarsie Tube.

  • sbauman

    Dynamic braking feeds the braking energy into the train’s resistor grid. My understanding is that it works even if the third rail is dead.

    Magnetic flux lines must cross electric wires (or vice-versa) to generate electric currents. The motors on NYC trains are not dynamos – they don’t use permanent magnets to create the required magnetic field. That magnetic field is generated by one of the motor’s windings being connected to an electric power source. In this case, it’s the third rail. If the third rail is dead, there is no electric power source and no magnetic field and no dynamic brakes. It’s the magnetic field that’s important. If the motor is shorted out, that motor won’t propel the car nor will it act as a brake. It’s standard NYCT practice to permit trains with several shorted motors to operate in regular service. The thought that such shorted motors also compromises the braking capability hasn’t occurred to them.

  • Andrew

    Like all train simulators , it’s only as good as the accuracy of the routes and rolling stock people make. Most of the NYC subway routes for Open BVE match the distances, curves, and gradients of the real thing. My speeds on different portions of the route when running neutered equipment matched the real world.

    You’ll have to pardon me for remaining skeptical of a game.

    Not sure of that one. Banking can compensate for it anyway. The only inherent limit on banking is that you don’t want such steep banking that the equipment is in danger of tipping over if it stops on the curve.

    Do you realize that changing the superelevation on an existing subway line requires, at a minimum, rebuilding the entire roadbed, and, most likely, widening the tunnel box and relocating the columns that support the street above to provide adequate clearances?

    My mom used to work for the TA. I was able to talk to a few people about technical things. Correct about the R1 speeds but the IND was designed to be forward-looking. They had anticipated future equipment would be faster, and designed for it. I’m sure you remember the proposed 70 mph design speed for the SAS (and the R44s could achieve this).

    I’m sorry, but the designers of the IND system were not planning in the 1930’s for a short-lived failed experiment in car design of the 1970’s. The IND included grade timers from day one at locations where even the humble R1 was capable of reaching unsafe speeds.

    It’s a combination of higher acceleration rates and higher running speeds. As things stand now, trains run at or below 35 mph for most of the express run. At most they briefly hit about 45 mph, and then only for a few seconds. You also have a significant upgrade from Woodhaven Blvd to 67th Avenue. This slows the neutered trains down to about 30 mph by the time they hit 67th Avenue. Unneutered trains would be able to hold 55 mph all the way. Remember the R160s have 600 HP per car and only a fraction of that is needed to maintain 55 mph. There’s plenty of reserve power to hold speed on grades.

    So I guess you’ve simply gone ahead and specified your dream subway car, without regard for what it would take to actually design or build one. You’re welcome to do that, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see it happen in practice.

  • Andrew

    The whole point of a signal system is to ensure that an innocent error on the part of the train operator doesn’t result in injuries or fatalities. That’s why all modern signal systems incorporate enforcement of critical train spacing and speed requirements. The subway has had trip-stop enforcement of red signals since it opened in 1904 – this isn’t some new-fangled thing that the MTA dreamt up, and at the core of signal design is and has always been an assurance that a train that passes a red signal will reach a stop before colliding with the train that caused it to be red.

  • sbauman

    The R142A’s, as built, did not include interfaces for future CBTC components, an unfortunate decision which significantly drove up the cost of the R188 order. The R160’s have CBTC interfaces, making for a much simpler (and cheaper) retrofit process.

    It took some time to locate the cost for the R160 retrofit. It was $12 million for 8 trainsets, back in 2008. That comes to $1.5M per trainset. Not all the trainsets were retrofitted to be compatible for the L Train’s CBTC. The question remains how quickly the MTA can adapt to a sudden need to increase L service.

    If we assume the IRT operates 200 trains in max service and the BMT/IND the remaining 400, then the rolling stock conversion cost will be $2.6B.

    I’ve also been able to determine where the 3 substations are to be located. The MTA coupled the need to build these substations with the Canarsie tunnel project. That’s why I assumed the power shortage was limited to the tunnel. The 3 substations will be located near: First Ave; Graham Ave and Jefferson St. They are obviously covering more than just the tunnel. Should I assume that the trackage east of Myrtle Ave can already handle more than 20 tph?

  • sbauman

    the signal system was designed to be safe under assumptions of both braking and acceleration capabilities,

    The distance necessary to stop depends on the initial velocity, the braking rate and the grade the train is on. The acceleration, how fast the train got to its speed does not enter into the equation.

    The good news is that none of this applies to CBTC.

    Really? What happens if CBTC assumes that the emergency braking rate is 3.2 mph/sec and spaces trains accordingly but the emergency braking rate is only 1.8 mph/sec? That’s what happened on the Williamsburg Bridge. A collision will result, whether the CBTC or a wayside tripper apply the emergency brakes.

    All of the post-1995 cars are capable of the higher acceleration rate but were designed to cap themselves at the lower acceleration rate when not in CBTC mode, to ensure safety.

    4 mph/sec acceleration and braking rates had been standard since the PCC’s introduction. The acceleration for the NTT trains is given as 2.5 mph/sec. This matches the high performance steel cars introduced by the BRT in 1914. Acceleration from a station is one of the important factors that determines service level capacity.

  • Andrew

    It took some time to locate the cost for the R160 retrofit. It was $12 million for 8 trainsets, back in 2008. That comes to $1.5M per trainset. Not all the trainsets were retrofitted to be compatible for the L Train’s CBTC. The question remains how quickly the MTA can adapt to a sudden need to increase L service.

    It’s a concern only if the demand for more service on the L is matched by a demand for less service elsewhere on the B Division. Otherwise, the additional cars you want to send to the L – the ones without CBTC – are already spoken for on other lines, so their lack of CBTC is largely moot.

    Once new cars are being ordered to increase service on the L, they can be ordered with CBTC already installed from the factory (as will be the case for all cars beginning with the R211 order). The challenge will be in determining how many should be equipped with the Canarsie-style CBTC as opposed to the new NYCT standard.

    If we assume the IRT operates 200 trains in max service and the BMT/IND the remaining 400, then the rolling stock conversion cost will be $2.6B.

    You’re assuming that all current cars will be converted. In fact, some of the older cars (definitely the R46’s, probably everything through the R68A’s) will be retired before the need comes along for CBTC. Their replacements will come with CBTC already installed.

    I’ve also been able to determine where the 3 substations are to be located. The MTA coupled the need to build these substations with the Canarsie tunnel project. That’s why I assumed the power shortage was limited to the tunnel.

    Opportunity, not need. The Canarsie tunnel project is an opportunity to build the 1st Avenue substation that would otherwise be hard to come by.

    The 3 substations will be located near: First Ave; Graham Ave and Jefferson St. They are obviously covering more than just the tunnel. Should I assume that the trackage east of Myrtle Ave can already handle more than 20 tph?

    Some trains already turn at Myrtle Avenue. The east end of the line isn’t the part of the line that’s seen the meteoric growth in the past two decades.

  • Joe R.

    You’re assuming that all current cars will be converted. In fact, some of the older cars (definitely the R46’s, probably everything through the R68A’s) will be retired before the need comes along for CBTC. Their replacements will come with CBTC already installed.

    I think we can assume this even with an accelerated CBTC installation schedule. The R46s will probably go by the early 2020s, the R32s before that. That leaves the R62s and R68As as the last older technology trains where CBTC retrofitting would be difficult or impossible. Given their vintage, both will probably be pulled from service by the mid 2030s at the latest, if not sooner. Even under the most optimistic scenario there will be non-CBTC equipped lines for these trains to run on for the remainder of their service lives. If I’m wrong then it means the MTA somehow will manage to install CBTC systemwide by the early or mid 2030s. I’m just not seeing that happening even under a very accelerated schedule.

  • Joe R.

    The magnetic field can also come from another power source like a battery. Diesel locomotives seem to manage dynamic braking without any external power sources, so it can be done. It may have required some retrofits of the rolling stock but it’s certainly not impossible.

  • Joe R.

    The subway was actually way ahead of its time with the trip-stops. Even now quite a few mainline railroads have no real way to stop a train if the engineer misses a red signal. PTC was supposed to have been installed nationally a few years ago but the railroads got extensions.

  • Joe R.

    What happens if CBTC assumes that the emergency braking rate is 3.2 mph/sec and spaces trains accordingly but the emergency braking rate is only 1.8 mph/sec?

    I don’t think CBTC will run on razor-thin margins which assume 3.2 mph/sec. That results in a stopping distance of 693 feet from 55 mph. Add in the train length of 600 feet and this implies running trains about 1300 feet apart even in sections of track where they reach their maximum speeds. Or put another way, you would need to be running trains ~16 seconds apart at 55 mph, which is 225 tph. The MTA’s infrastructure for the most part can’t cope with anything over 30 tph. That gives CBTC plenty of margin for error. In fact, you can probably base train spacing on 1 mph/sec deceleration rates and still never be faced with a situation where it impacts the number of trains per hour. CBTC’s advantage over the block signal system is that is can increase throughput in the event the system gets backed up. Right now trains have to keep at least one block apart no matter what their speed is. CBTC might let trains creep into a station a few tens of feet behind a train which is leaving. This could help prevent dangerous platform crowded.

    The acceleration for the NTT trains is given as 2.5 mph/sec. This matches the high performance steel cars introduced by the BRT in 1914.

    Just to be clear even the neutered trains (both DC and NTT) still have an initial 2.5 mph/sec acceleration rate. The DC trains can hold this rate to about 17 or 18 mph (and the “neutering” didn’t change this), while the NTTs can hold it to ~25 mph (they were detuned to match the performance of the older rolling stock). The neutering affected the train acceleration above speeds of 17 or 18 mph. Acceleration from 20 to 30 mph probably takes about twice as long as it used. 30 to 40 mph is a much higher multiple. And top speed is limited as well. Yes, this has affected service level capacity and travel times.

  • Joe R.

    You’ll have to pardon me for remaining skeptical of a game.

    It’s a simulation, not a game. Open Rails is an MS Train Simulator replacement currently well into development which is even better than OpenBVE. At this point if it has correct inputs it’s as good as any professional railway run-time simulators. You’re welcome to your skepticism but having been on the Open Rails development team I can assure your the goal here is realistic operation. Here’s the latest manual: http://openrails.org/files/OpenRails-Testing-Manual.pdf

    Open BVE isn’t quite as good, but it’s the only sim which people have designed realistic subway routes for.

    These simulations have gotten quite sophisticated compared to what we had even a decade ago.

    Do you realize that changing the superelevation on an existing subway line requires, at a minimum, rebuilding the entire roadbed, and, most likely, widening the tunnel box and relocating the columns that support the street above to provide adequate clearances?

    And maybe the superelevation wouldn’t even need to be changed to increase running speeds. Or perhaps what we have here might be one spot where the train needs to go 35 or 40 mph but under CBTC it can quickly recover to 55 mph after it passes that spot. The end result then could be maybe my simulations are 15 seconds off what can be achieved in the real world. I’ll gladly take that.

    I’m sorry, but the designers of the IND system were not planning in the 1930’s for a short-lived failed experiment in car design of the 1970’s. The IND included grade timers from day one at locations where even the humble R1 was capable of reaching unsafe speeds.

    The IND used wider curves and flyover junctions specifically with the goal of running existing trains to full capability and to allow for speed increases thought possible based on existing technology:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_Multi-section_car_(New_York_City_Subway_car)

    These were made in the 1930s. It would have been entirely reasonable to design for future 60 or 65 mph speeds based on the performance of these trains.

    So I guess you’ve simply gone ahead and specified your dream subway car, without regard for what it would take to actually design or build one.

    You asked how I got 4 minutes off, and I told you how. I just used existing R160 performance assuming the train motors give full power until the train reaches its design speed of 55 mph. I didn’t play any fantasy games by assuming it could travel even faster. Technically it can in that the top speed is capped by the traction computers. However, I have no idea of the gearing, motor RPM limits, and so forth. Those and the running gear design would set a hard limit on the maximum possible speed if the traction computer didn’t cap the speed. No idea what that could be but I know the MTA ran an NTT in the low 70s. It had to abort the test after it ran out of straight track.

  • sbauman

    Why should you doubt it?

    The theoretical service level capacity for rolling stock with NYCT characteristics and 30 second station dwell time is in the mid 40’s. Read Lang and Soderberg, Urban Rail Transit Its Economics and Technology, MIT Press, (c)1964, Appendix A.

    The Moscow subway, using block system technology based on NYC, still operates 43 tph. N.B. the MTA has not reached out to Moscow, in their search for foreign experts to advise them. Are they afraid they might learn something they don’t want to hear?

    BTW, the Third Ave El operated 42 tph in the reverse direction until the South Ferry branch was eliminated. Single crossover reversing terminals have a much lower capacity than intermediate stations. The solution is to branch out the trunk into multiple terminals. Removing the South Ferry Branch, to reduce the number of people using the Brooklyn Bridge, effectively killed the Third Ave El as a major trunk line.

  • sbauman

    I’ve been riding the Flushing Line since the mid 1960’s.

    The Flushing Line stopped 36 tph during the City’s fiscal crisis. That was in 1975 or 42 years ago. Sorry, you missed it.

  • sbauman

    I don’t think CBTC will run on razor-thin margins which assume 3.2 mph/sec. That results in a stopping distance of 693 feet from 55 mph. Add in the train length of 600 feet and this implies running trains about 1300 feet apart even in sections of track where they reach their maximum speeds.

    Which is why the maximum block length is 1400 feet.

    Or put another way, you would need to be running trains ~16 seconds apart at 55 mph, which is 225 tph.

    That’s true, if there were no stations for trains to stop/start and dwell time. I suggest you consult Lang and Soderberg, Urban Rail Transit Its Economics and Technology, MIT Press (c) 1964, Appendix A, to see how intermediate stations and signal systems reduce service levels.

    CBTC’s advantage over the block signal system is that is can increase throughput in the event the system gets backed up.

    Why don’t you simulate these two scenarios. Assume there a large number of trains backed up. First, the followers move as you suggested with station dwell time set to 30 seconds. Second, each follower waits for 90 seconds after its immediate leader has started moving and proceeds at normal speed, with the same 30 second station dwell time. The question to be answered is which scenario provides the smaller average headway.

  • bolwerk

    Huh? There are dozens of driverless rail systems in the world. One is even here in New York. Copenhagen is describe here.

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