Flutterby™! : Philadelphia Train Crash

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Philadelphia Train Crash

2015-05-13 15:55:09.312782+00 by Dan Lyke 1 comments

So there was an Amtrak train derailment last night in Philadelphia. Of course this has raised the usual hue and cry over infrastructure, and I'll address that in a moment, but...

This surveillance video shows the train passing just before the crash, in a bit over 4 seconds for the 7 car train. Guessing at 85' long cars (the length of the Superliner cars used elsewhere, I'm not easily seeing specs on the Northeast Corridor cars), that says 130+FPS or ~90MPH into that curve. Infrastructure was likely not the problem. Or if it was, it's about a lack of automation.

So let's talk about relative risk and PTC (positive train control) and the like. March 30: 8 dead in a church van crash. May 1: Six killed in head-on crash (those via Taupe Avenger's Twitter feed). We don't see screams for PTC in automobiles, we see people complaining about the computer's ability to make snap moral decisions. And we have mindless scaremongering: RT Katie Couric @katiecouric: "230 people killed in train accidents in the last year alone. Very scary."

I can't reply more intelligently than Eric Budd @ericmbudd: "33,000 Americans died in car crashes last year, but keep thinking trains are scary."

Not to mitigate the impacts of the six killed and the hundred plus injured, but the big difference between this crash and your average motoring weekend in any given region is the greater infrastructure impact: It's going to take longer to repair those rails and get trains flowing through there than it would on a highway.

I don't really have time to dig into the stats right now, but I'm betting that if you put up the prices we're paying to add another commute lane to your favorite stretch of highway, even if you designate it a carpool lane and think maybe we'll get 4k additional people an hour through it for a two hour rush-hour time period, vs what we pay for rail, especially on the northeast corridor, personal automobiles or even buses don't come out the winner.

More reading...

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#Comment Re: Philadelphia Train Crash made: 2015-05-14 23:39:00.360237+00 by: Dan Lyke

And "congressional sources", including Rep. Charlie Dent, R-PA and Andy Harris, R-MD , are claiming that PTC was installed on both that stretch of track and the locomotive, but was turned off.

...Yet the technology that could have slowed it had not been enabled – allegedly because the Federal Communications Commission told Amtrak there was not enough available radio bandwidth to reliably operate the system, Harris, Dent and a third congressional source say, citing communications between the Appropriations Committee and Amtrak.