SEPTA provides around-the-clock service 365 days per year to the historic City of Philadelphia, its five surrounding counties, and connecting to the neighboring states of Delaware and New Jersey. From its fifteen maintenance yards, SEPTA supports 16 commuter railroad lines, a subway system, a light rail high-speed line, an elevated rail line, and 8 subway-surface trolley lines.
In all, SEPTA operates over 450 miles of track to 290 stations and 6 transit centers while also running approximately 1,400 fixed-route 40’ and articulated buses over 170 surface routes and well over 2,000 paratransit vehicles. The relationship between SEPTA and our team began over 20 years ago with the design and implementation assistance for their commuter rail’s new centralized traffic control (CTC) system still in use today and has continued uninterrupted since that start. Over this period, our team has been the trusted prime consulting engineering lead for numerous IT/ITS and telecommunication projects, such as:
Railroad Division Control Center: As prime consultant, our team designed a state-of-the-art Railroad Division Control Center (RRDCC), centralized traffic control (CTC) system, and a traction power control (Power SCADA) system. Prompting this undertaking was SEPTA’s desire to retire field towers and centralize their operation into a multimodal control operation. An engineering study examined existing conditions, defined future operations, and considered a future expansion of the rail territory. The study included a conceptual design to address the following key areas: Evaluation of alternative sites for a new RRDCC facility; this analysis also included the location of an Emergency Backup Control Center. Development of functional requirements for the CTC and SCADA systems.Integration approaches of the existing wayside equipment with the centralized operation.Communications requirements of the RRDCC including an extension to an alternate path routing of SEPTA's fiber-optic network to support the RRDCC operations.Design of an Integrated Communications Switch (ICS) to consolidate all telephone, radio, public address, and visual messaging systems onto a common dispatching interface. Our team continued to work with SEPTA’s engineering staff to design the RRDCC theater layout, considering the CTC and Power SCADA system requirements and staffing solutions.
Positive Train Control: Our team and Gannett Fleming worked together to complete a comprehensive solution for SEPTA to satisfy this federal mandate, culminating in helping author SEPTA’s PTC Implementation Plan (IP) due in April 2010. During this assignment, our team also found 220 MHz frequencies suitable for use with PTC and assisted SEPTA with successfully procuring the license from its current owner. Today, our team is helping SEPTA work through 220 MHz radio licensing with the freight lines’ industry team: “PTC 220”, to resolve interoperability between the SEPTA’s, Amtrak’s, and the freight lines' different PTC systems. UHF/T-Band Radio System: Our team performed several tasks to help implement and make improvements to SEPTA’s 5-site simulcast T-Band land mobile radio system, including helping to acquire supplemental UHF channels reserved for use by its paratransit fleet operators, frequency planning, and relicensing of its T-band channels in conformance with the FCC narrowbanding requirements, improving the performance of the microwave datalinks between SEPTA’s towers and control center(s), and relocating a tower at Oxford Valley Mall to accommodate further commercial development being sought around it.
SEPTA/City Radio Interoperability: As prime engineering consultant, our team acting on behalf of SEPTA worked with the City of Philadelphia’s IT department, which is responsible for their common 800 MHz trunked digital voice radio communication system supporting all first responders and emergency management operations for the City. Our team was engaged to design a seamless, flexible, and mutually manageable interoperability approach with SEPTA’s UHF radio system. Focusing on requirements definitions for SEPTA Police and underground communications in support of all public safety interests, Our team determined what modifications are required to affect the desired interoperability behavior and management for improved radio coverage for incident and disaster recovery anywhere in SEPTA’s tunnels and underground concourses, as well as enabling day-to-day seamless communications among SEPTA & City Police, Fire, and EMS. During this assessment, it was revealed that the City and SEPTA need to deploy a new distributed cable/antenna to deliver interoperable, mission-critical-grade voice communications throughout nearly 25 miles of commuter and urban rail tunnels, passenger stations, and concourses crisscrossing under the City of Philadelphia. Once completed in 2019 the DCS, comprised of dozens of bidirectional amplifiers linked together by fiber-optic backhaul and almost 100 miles of RF leaky cable will serve as a common, resilient, and seamlessly interoperable underground radio infrastructure for the City’s first responders and SEPTA Operations alike.
Underground Distributed Cable/Antenna System: As prime engineering consultant, our team, acting on behalf of SEPTA worked with the City the Philadelphia’s IT department, which is responsible for their common 800 MHz trunked digital voice radio communication system supporting all first responders and emergency management operations for the City, to design a seamless, flexible, and mutually manageable interoperability approach with SEPTA’s UHF radio system. Focusing on requirements definitions for SEPTA Police and underground communications in support of all public safety interests, we determined what modifications are required to affect the desired interoperability behavior and management for improved radio coverage for incident and disaster recovery anywhere in SEPTA’s tunnels and underground concourses, as well as enabling day-to-day seamless communications among SEPTA & City Police, Fire, and EMS. We prepared bid specifications and plans that SEPTA would use to engage a design-build contractor to implement the Broad St. subway (Orange Line), and prepared designs and plans for SEPTA’s installation of the new DCS their Blue, Green, and Railroad line tunnels.
Cloud-based Vital Systems Assessment: As part of a continuous effort to operate more cost-efficiently and employ modern IT principles, SEPTA asked our team to prepare a briefing paper on the operational and economic tradeoffs for migrating selected real-time operations control and management systems from their campus to one or more cloud-based hosts. With our team's knowledge of SEPTA’s operating principles, composition and skills of its IT and Operational staff, and the peculiar system architectural requirements of the vital control systems they use, our team was able to prepare an executive-level briefing paper that clearly compared and contrasted the benefits between (a) managing and operating these systems on campus using organic personnel and (b) moving these responsibilities off-site to a suitably classified and available hosting service.
Platform-Track Incursion Detection: Like all rail transit operators, keeping people safe from oncoming trains into stations is a constant concern. SEPTA has installed well over 4,000 CCTV cameras throughout its property to monitor, police, and record incidents – some of which are people inattentively falling (or purposely jumping) off of platforms onto active tracks. Consequently, SEPTA asked our team to assess whether there were possible cost-effective technological alternatives rather than installing extremely costly barriers or double-door systems to help SEPTA rapidly detect and alert dispatchers and police to people or objects on the tracks so that trains can be stopped safely before entering the station. Our team researched a wide variety of possible technological approaches, such as treadle-pressure mats, laser beam-break, and RF echolocation but settled on a video analytics solution based on an IR-sensor immune to lighting and weather variations, as proving most economical, maintainable, and suitable for use when installed across SEPTA’s 290 stations.
“SEPTANet” Wireless Voice/Data Infrastructure: Our team prepared a strategic roadmap and technology plan for transforming SEPTA’s antiquated, slow, UHF/T-Band conventional analog land mobile radio communications used for voice and CAD/AVL data communications into a combination of two independent infrastructures:
- a robust, sustainable, durable, 700 MHz digital-trunked “SEPTANet Voice” network fully interoperable with the City of Philadelphia, its surrounding counties within southeastern Pennsylvania, with neighboring transit agencies operating in New Jersey (NJ Transit and PATCO) and Delaware (DART), and even federal entities such as Amtrak; and…
- a licensed, low-power, mesh-based wireless broadband “SEPTANet Data” network running a standard 4G LTE protocol
The SEPTANet Data network will be deployed initially to support precise bus location and stop arrival ETA feeds to SEPTA’s website, fixed LED displays, and its branded mobile app while serving as a high-speed data backbone for collecting APC data, live in-vehicle CCTV feeds to SEPTA Police, and vehicle performance telemetry, and delivering dynamic public information and advertising to passengers.
New Payment Technology (“SEPTA Key”): SEPTA is working to completely replace its dated, cash and token-based fare payment practice with a state-of-the-art, the cashless system now brand-named “SEPTA Key” but still referred to internally as “NPT” as a rider-linked account-based, integrated, electronic fare payment and collection system capable of interfacing with both inter-bank and non-bank financial clearing systems for transaction settlement within a fraction of a second. The envisioned system will feature fare vending devices, smart media processors on turnstiles and onboard vehicles, and a central data collection and reporting system hosted on a robust fiber and wireless LTE telecommunications infrastructure. Under a subcontract to the prime consultant for this project, LTK Engineering, our team was responsible for architecting and overseeing the deployment of this telecommunication backbone. Today, the NPT is undergoing limited, controlled functionality and stability testing on-site before being deployed system-wide.
700 MHz Radio System: Our team, as a prime engineering consultant, has been engaged by SEPTA to design a new 18-channel, P25 phase II, 700 MHz trunked radio system, to support voice communications on SEPTA’s buses, trolleys, and Paratransit vehicles. The 700 MHz radio system will also support interoperability with public safety agencies in Philadelphia and in up to five surrounding counties. SEPTA Police will utilize the City of Philadelphia Public Safety 800 MHz system when in the Philadelphia City limits and then roam onto the SEPTA 700 MHz system when outside that area. The radio sites will be interconnected via a licensed microwave system using the 6 and 11 GHz frequency bands and SEPTA-owned Fiber network. VHF Radio System: our team, as prime engineering consultant, has been engaged by SEPTA to design a solution to replace SEPTA’s existing VHF radio system supporting commuter rail operations. The replacement VHF radio system will be a narrow-band, wide-area, conventional, simulcast VHF radio system.