Muni Metro “Double Berthing” Delayed Again — Wait Until November

Photo: RobVSF/Flickr

Muni has yet again postponed the launch of simultaneously loading two trains in each of its Metro stations, also known as “double berthing.” We last reported that the practice was supposed to begin this month, but SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said the new timeline is “early November,” with no specific date set yet.

While Muni riders salivate for what might seem like a simple step that would speed up underground boardings, Muni Operations Director John Haley has cited “issues with the platform signs and trains” for the delays. Apparently, setting up the software to work with the automatic train control system is turning out to be quite a challenge.

Originally, double berthing was supposed to launch in October 2012. Now, we can only hope it will launch before the new light rail fleet starts running.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I’d love to see the source code for the ATCS. It must be written with some serious static assumptions like “car car1, car2;” or some junk. They’d probably get much better throughput operating the trains manually.

  • vcs

    Double Berthing used to be regular procedure, but Muni prohibited the drivers from temporarily disabling the ATCS to open the doors. I suppose it takes a lot of software to replace a person with a knob.

    I also wonder if the ATCS really provides any benefit. The drivers negotiate all the crazy traffic on the streets, but can’t drive in a tunnel?

  • andrelot

    Operating in tunnels requires more safeguards. It is common throughout Europe (Rotterdam, Berlin, Milan, Köln, Bern, Birmingham come to mind, among others) to have hybrid systems that operate manually on mixed-traffic areas and then with automated control systems on underground or grade-separated sections.

  • ATCS (though not necessarily the system Muni has been using) most definitely provides speed and safety benefits. It’s not that operators can’t manually drive trains in the tunnel, it’s trains can’t run as closely or frequently as a computer can control them.

    Many of the times the tunnel has slowed to a crawl was because it was thrown into manual when the computer communication with a train, often from hardware falling off the bottom of the trains (not kidding) and cutting the cable.

    I’m using the past tense because the trains all had to be fixed before the new cable could be placed between the rails, a fiberoptic network was built so that cable isn’t the only way to communicate, and Muni is switching to a new computer system; the one which theoretically will allow double-birthing.

  • Yes, the OS/2 based ATCS system had a lot of variables hard coded into the software. The system was perfectly designed so that any changes required going back to the technology provider and paying them to change it.

    Even though Muni won a lawsuit over the system they were still stuck with it. Even adding the T to the signs in the stations took some hacking to replace the unused N Judah to the Hill Brothers Building text.

  • tungwaiyip

    Are you kidding me? I thought OS/2 was end of life long time ago.

    I bet it cost less time and money to rebuild the software than to pay the contractors to maintain the dinosaur software.

  • timsmith

    Is the ATCS system (running OS/2) finally being phased out? This has been discussed for years, but information online is contradictory about the current state of the project.

  • The process of replacing the OS/2-based ATCS system also meant replacing other hardware systems it spoke to in the tunnel. The new system has to be completely up and running before the old ATCS can be turned off, but its all so behind the scenes that steps along the way like the fiber backbone are the only signs it’s happening.

  • mx

    John Haley should have been fired long ago for presiding over the most incompetent operations office of a transit agency in the world.


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