Industrial Automation

The Role of Mass Transit Automation in Passenger Satisfaction

Pradeep Kumar

The days of slow, inconvenient travel and long commuter lines are behind us as automation and intelligent mass transit infrastructure take hold.


Today’s passengers expect a minimalistic, no-nonsense approach to ridership: fewer delays, ticketless boarding, apps that support trip planning and departure/stop reminders. They want a safe and simple commute. They also require easy access to systems like phones or intercoms that can be used to report safety issues directly to transportation authorities.


But passengers aren’t the only ones who want to see mass transit improve. Transportation authorities, as well as the systems integrators responsible for installing and integrating these platforms, are looking for completely automated control systems that can support things like automated commissioning reports and notification alerts when a device, such as a camera or sensor, isn’t working.


President Biden and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration have also announced billions of dollars in federal funding for major infrastructure projects across the country, including over $292 million to complete a critical early phase of the Hudson Tunnel Project in New Jersey, $400 million for New York’s Second Avenue Subway extension and another $100 million for the Gateway Tunnel, also in New York. As a result, many agencies are deciding that now is the time to make improvements.


In other cases, even when federal funding isn’t being provided, transit authorities need to modernize outdated and degrading infrastructure—including their networks—to prepare for the wave of mass transit automation headed their way. As sustainability becomes a bigger influence on decision-making, and mass transit is deemed an environmentally responsible way to travel, authorities will have no choice but to improve the experience to better support safety and efficiency. Investments are already being made in infrastructure to support new systems, such high-speed passenger rail service connecting Los Angeles to Las Vegas.


Mass Transit Automation Starts with a Network Management System


Whether the goal is to improve safety, reliability or wait times, updates to mass transit systems should start with the network. It creates a foundation for the automation and efficiency that passengers and workers want.


Once a strong network infrastructure is in place using MPLS-TP technology, which creates great potential with zero operational failure, automation of certain components can be deployed to help systems integrators and mass transit authorities achieve those goals and improve passenger satisfaction.


Let’s consider an example. Without mass transit automation, a public transit dispatch or train controller must manually direct train movement and signaling while also manually checking to verify communication failures. Automating these tasks with a network management system makes train control more autonomous, which benefits passengers and workers. When something unusual occurs, controllers receive notification right away via text, email or whatever communication method they choose so they can stop or reroute trains. This makes their work easier while also reducing service downtime for riders.


If a network-connected camera malfunctions at the depot or in the yard, for instance, an alarm lets the right person know right away, indicating exactly which camera requires attention. The operator or controller can send a task to a maintenance worker who can log into the network management system to take a closer look. If the camera can be reconfigured remotely, the correction can be made right away. If hardware needs to be repaired or replaced, then they can head out to that location knowing exactly where to go and what they’ll find when they arrive. And this all can be done without any downtime or disruption to revenue-generating activities or passenger service.


We’re Experts in Mass Transit Automation


Making changes or upgrades to mass transit network infrastructure can be a daunting task. How do you know whether new systems will work in your environment—and with your existing technology and equipment? Factory testing can only anticipate and predict so much (and may not reflect real-time transit conditions).


When you work with Belden, our Customer Innovation Center guides you through every step of the project. Our team is filled with extended communication experts who can help you design, commission and manage your project from start to finish. We’ll also provide a complete commissioning plan and roadmap for system quality and performance assurance.


To ensure success, we’ll also create a test environment for you before your system is deployed. This space will mirror your own mass transit environment and provide the opportunity to deploy proposed solutions and systems in a test space to determine how they’ll perform in the field. This provides you with complete confidence and peace of mind that the system will work with all aspects of your technology, whether it’s a CBTC, PTC or ERTMS/ETCS Level 2 solution.


If the network fails in a mass transit environment, then modern rail service can come to a halt. Belden has the insight and expertise to help projects create a foundation for mass transit automation that can improve passenger satisfaction, safety and efficiency. Learn more about our mass transit solutions.


Related Links


Mass Transit

Digital Transformation and the Mass Transit Industry

Network Management Software