Ring Door Closing Chime When Unsafe to Board Push-Pulls

Nudging Up Customer Service: Long-Term Solution

Problem, Classification, and Idea

One of the fatal flaws in the original regional rail equipment is the requirement that train doors remain open for the entire amount of time that low-level traps are open. As such, a dangerous situation presents itself while trains are about to depart: a passenger has no way of knowing if the “go” signal had already been given, making it possible for a train to begin moving while a customer is boarding or detraining. This issue is exacerbated by the Push-Pull Bomber trains which are not able to readily stop following a conductor’s signal to proceed. In order to prevent this from occurring, a standardized practice of either protecting doors or discouraging customers from boarding should be employed.


One way to solve this problem is to ring the “door closing” buzzer continually throughout the train’s departure. This could prevent customers from boarding, but does have two potential downsides. First, customers might wind up assuming the train is about to depart rather than departing, causing them to sprint and attempt to board the moving train. In addition, in order to cancel the noise, conductors may inadvertently open more doors than they had anticipated (creating further danger with regard to train departures.

Notes & Graphics

Further investigation of this topic consisted of interviews with various SEPTA maintenance managers as well as site visits to tour all types of regional rail equipment at both Roberts and Powelton yards. Based upon the design of the Push-Pull trains, there are several challenges to this occurring. Were a train ready to depart, the conductor could press the door close button, causing the door chime to ring for three seconds. Unfortunately, there is no way to continue this noise beyond the three seconds without first closing the trap, allowing the door to be shut, reopening the door, and then reopening the trap (rendering the entire process useless as the sole reason for such a solution is to prevent people from boarding while the doors are open). Another concern related to this was also the instinctive nature of many to run towards, rather than away from, a train ringing its  door closing chime (a psychological fact which might have actually led to decreased rather than increased safety).

Next Steps

Given that this solution is infeasible, one should evaluate an alternative measure to solve the crux of the problem: being able to open and close door traps on the push pull trains. Per the latest picking, most trains operate with three crew members (one conductor and two ACs), leaving half of the doorsets completely unmanned at low-level stations. One possible solution to this could make use of the widespread SEPTA labor force which regularly rides the regional rail. SEPTA Employees who take a special “Employee Assistant” program could assist the conductors on their regular trains by opening and closing the trap at stops. This relatively simple task could easily be accomplished by a large portion of the SEPTA workforce. Moreover, given that the Push-Pull consists (where the door assistance is most necessary) run only in the peak direction during peak hours, employees will always be aboard these trains, effectively eliminating the entire concern.