Friday, March 05, 2010

Austin’s Cap Metro simulates service, sets March 22 debut

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Employees of Austin, Tex.’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority are playing the roll of passengers as testing, which began this month, continues on the oft-delayed line. Cap Metro also announced Friday its intent to begin revenue service Monday, March 22.

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Cap Metro staff are simulating rider conditions, including ticket queuing, passenger boarding and departures, and of course riding on the agency’s Stadler-Bussnag diesel multiple-unit (DMU) equipment as the trains operateover the system in simulated revenue service.

"We're going through the motions of what passengers will hopefully experience," said Cap Metro employee David McNiff. "Hopefully we'll make sure it's working. At this point, we're trying to overload it to see what the capacity is."

Capital Metro spokesman Adam Shaivitz says the system wasn't overloaded. But people involved in the testing were simultaneously buying tickets at the system’s nine stations and working to push the set up to itslimit. During testing without passengers on March 1, a server glitch at MetroRail's dispatch reportedly halted testing for around 45 minutes. 

The tests have mirrored the rail's actual service schedule along the 32-mile route from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the morning, then again from 3:45 p.m. until 7:45 p.m.

Shaivits says inspectors from the Federal RailwayAdministration are overseeing the testing.  The agency originally had hoped to launch revenue service at the end of 2008. Throughout that year, Cap Metro and the FRA clashed over the agency's pursuit of a waiver to operate under temporal separation (time-sharing) rules.