Over the past several months, we’ve heard from riders who are frustrated with an increase in FrontRunner delays. We appreciate your patience and support as we work to make our service more reliable while also maintaining the highest standards of safety.
Below, you will find answers to some commonly asked questions about our FrontRunner system. If you have additional questions, please contact us on Facebook, Twitter or by phone at 801-RIDE-UTA (743-3882).
What’s causing recent FrontRunner delays?
FrontRunner operates on a single-track system, and trains must pass each other at designated places along the line. To do this, trains must maintain specific speeds and leave each station at the scheduled departure time. If the timing of these train “meets” is disrupted – by mechanical issues, bad weather, or increased ridership - it can delay those trains and may also have a ripple effect, causing delays throughout the entire system.
In the past, FrontRunner engineers could safely make up time between stations if faced with a delay. That is no longer the case. UTA is currently in the process of implementing a federally mandated safety system called Positive Train Control (PTC). Among other impacts, PTC can reduce the speed at which FrontRunner can travel, making it more difficult for trains to stay on schedule and recover from minor delays.
When will these delays be resolved?
UTA has been implementing PTC incrementally over the past two years, and we have adjusted the schedule along the way to account for these system changes. In April, schedule adjustments were made that helped compensate for newly installed PTC changes.
We are adjusting the schedule again in December. Although we won’t be able to fully resolve the delays, as PTC implementation is not yet complete, we anticipate the December schedule adjustments will improve service and reliability.
Implementation of PTC will continue through next summer. Once PTC is fully implemented by mid-to-late 2019, we will make final adjustments to the FrontRunner schedule to reduce delays and improve the overall reliability of the system for our riders.
What additional things are we doing to fix the issue?
We are also exploring other ways to improve FrontRunner reliability. For example, in September 2018, FrontRunner saw a record-breaking 21,799 average boardings per weekday. We’re looking at ways to increase the time a train stops at each station to give larger numbers of riders sufficient time to board.
We also have a long-term goal to add sections of double-tracking to our system. We anticipate that this will greatly improve reliability. We recently completed a study of ways we could improve the FrontRunner system in the future, and we are now discussing those concepts with elected officials and community partners. Adding another track will require additional funding, and there is currently no timeline for double-tracking the system.
How can I find out when my train will arrive?
We post rail delays of 10 minutes or more on Twitter at @rideuta. If you don’t have Twitter, you can also see these delays be clicking on the “Service Alerts” button on our homepage or click the “Twitter” option on our UTA GoRide app. You can also track the location of your train using the Vehicle Locator feature at www.rideuta.com or check the electronic information board at the stations.
What is PTC?
PTC is a system of safety features federally mandated by the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act. PTC is designed to prevent accidents like train-to-train collisions or incidents caused by excessive speed. The Federal Railroad Administration estimates that PTC will be implemented on 60,000 miles of track and will affect 20,000 locomotives by 2020.
When FrontRunner opened in April 2008, several of the required PTC safety features were engineered into the original design, including:
An Automatic Train Control (ATC) cab signal system, which:
- Enforces signal compliance, which prevents train-to-train collisions by automatically slowing or stopping a train before it enters a section of track where another train is present.
- Prevents trains from entering a section of mainline track where switches are lined improperly.
- Prevents trains from operating above set speed restrictions.
The following PTC enhancements are being installed, which will:
- Automatically slow trains through sections of track where maintenance or other work near the track is being performed.
- Automatically stop or slow trains to 15 miles per hour before proceeding through a damaged railroad crossing. This is already a part of our normal operating procedures, but the PTC system will ensure the trains slow to the appropriate speed.
Follow us here for more information about PTC and updates on implementation status.
Why is PTC Mandated by Federal Law?
For many decades, the safety of rail passengers depended on train engineers paying close attention to signals and acting in accordance with the rules and regulations. In the early 1990s, the National Transportation Safety board began to look at ways to automate safety features to protect riders from human error or purposeful safety violations. In 2008, congress prepared to pass a Rail Safety Improvement Act that would require many rail services to adopt PTC. Shortly before the bill was approved, 25 people were killed when a Metrolink train collided with a Union Pacific train in California. The collision was caused by engineer error and could have been prevented by PTC. The Rail Safety Improvement Act was signed into law on Oct. 16, 2008 to prevent such incidents from happening again.
How is this impacting other rail systems?
Commuter lines and larger freight rail lines across the nation are required to implement PTC. Many are experiencing similar challenges and some rail lines have even had to decrease service as they work to install the safety system.
UTA has been planning for PTC for years and does not anticipate impacts to service beyond the delays during implementation mentioned above.
Thank you for you continued support and ridership as we work to improve our system. We appreciate your patience and welcome comments and questions in the comment section below or at www.twitter.com/rideuta.