Omer, R., Fu, L.,Hossain, S. M. K., Muresan, M., Hosseini, F.(2013). Evaluation and Optimization of Winter Snow and Ice Control Operations for Railway Platforms. Funding Source: GO Transit, Metrolinx, Toronto, Ontario
Every winter season, significant quantities of salts are applied to railway platforms and transit stations to keep them free of snow and ice at all times and minimize slip and fall incidents. The application of excessive amount of salts has, however, raised concerns among environmental and regulatory agencies as well as the public about their environmental effects. Furthermore, transit agencies have also expressed concerns regarding the corrosive effects of salts on the infrastructure (e.g., platform concrete, lamp posts, shelters and tracks) and transit vehicles. In addition to the concerns related to salt usage, maintaining a high level of service at transit platforms itself is a significant challenge as it requires the deployment of railway flagmen to coordinate snow and ice control operations so that their interference with the normal operation of the train service is minimized. This requirement not only increases costs but also imposes additional constraints on the times when plowing and salting can be done. As a result, heavier-than-usual amounts of salts are commonly applied to maintain an acceptable level of service. To address these challenges, GO Transit is interested in developing a comprehensive winter maintenance plan to reduce salt use while maintaining a safe walking and waiting environment at its platforms. However, few uniform guidelines currently exist on what snow and ice control methods, materials, and application rates should be applied for railway platforms. The goal of this project is to address this need.
Overview of Project Activities
- A thorough review of existing research on winter maintenance of platforms was conducted. This review covered materials, application rates, issues with respect to environmental effects and damage to infrastructure, and experiences with false signal activation.
- A new smartphone-based system was introduced to collect platform condition and maintenance activity data. Training workshops were given to the GO staff on how to use the system to collect the required data for this research. The system was used to collect more than 100 observations (each comprising of multiple data points along the length of the platform), providing detailed information on platform coverage as well as local weather and other anomalies.
- The study on the current state of winter maintenance practices at GO Transit platforms was conducted over two winter seasons (2011-13). Videos on maintenance activities, weather, and equipment being used at four platforms were thoroughly reviewed for over 15 events.
- Field tests evaluating the performance of road salts and other alternative materials were conducted at the University of Waterloo. The research effort covered over 800 tests involving different materials, application rates and environmental conditions.
- A current state of practice survey was developed and sent to a number of transit agencies in North America. Due to limited feedback, it was decided to re-conduct the survey in Phase II through GO Transit.
- The state of practice survey developed in Phase I was updated to include topics that were previously left uncovered. The survey was sent out by GO Transit; however only a few responses have been received.