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SEPTA to turn off "Passenger Advance Lights" on NHSL

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fairviewroad

Conductor
Joined
Jan 13, 2011
Messages
3,357
In a rather low-key announcement, SEPTA says that starting Dec. 7, it would be discontinuing the use of "Passenger Advance Lights" on the Norristown High Speed Line.

If you've never ridden the NHSL, these are lights on the platform that can be triggered to alert the operator of an incoming railcar that someone is waiting to board. They're sort of irrelevant at major stops, since most likely there will be people getting off anyhow. But at minor stations, or late at night, these would allow riders to be assured the next train would stop for them, allowing them to stand further back in the shelter and not have to worry about flagging down the next train.

Now, SEPTA says trains will only stop for "visible passengers." (Or, of course, if someone is getting off, which they will signal the driver sort of like on a bus.) This means riders waiting to board will have to be more vigilant to watch/listen for the incoming train. It's not the end of the world...in fact, being visible to the operator is a pretty standard way to get a bus or trolley to stop. But NHSL trains are faster than most buses or trolleys, and can sneak up on a station pretty quickly.

SEPTA offers no explanation for the shut down, although one can imagine it's to save on operational and/or repair costs. (Or maybe there are pranksters running around turning them on?)

Are there any other rail services in North America that use a similar system? I know there are obviously rail lines with flag stops, but I'm talking specifically about the use of a light to trigger a station stop.
 

fairviewroad

Conductor
Joined
Jan 13, 2011
Messages
3,357
Interesting, I didn't realize that about the SSL. I've only ridden all the way to/from South Bend from Chicago, so I never really noticed that (although I see it's mentioned on the timetable).

Looks like there are only three such stops, whereas on the NHSL technically every stop is a flag stop except the terminals. So I would guess the SEPTA "lights" would have been used more. Still, it's a nice example. Thanks.
 

bratkinson

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 7, 2004
Messages
853
Location
QB 101
Before the use of a push button light to signal an oncoming train to stop (ala flag stop), there was a sign notifying passengers to 'use a light at night to signal train to stop'. Perhaps it was in Middletons' South Shore book or maybe one of the hoggers I talked to in the '70s & '80s that said rolled up, flaming newspapers were a common 'light at night'.
 

Alice

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 6, 2007
Messages
999
Location
California
I wonder if this is a covid response. Some of the cities out here (CA) have disabled pedestrian crossing push buttons for that reason. Car drivers complain because it means they have to wait at a traffic signal even when there are no pedestrians.
 

WWW

Service Attendant
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Nov 18, 2018
Messages
104
Location
MSP
In a rather low-key announcement, SEPTA says that starting Dec. 7, it would be discontinuing the use of "Passenger Advance Lights" on the Norristown High Speed Line.

If you've never ridden the NHSL, these are lights on the platform that can be triggered to alert the operator of an incoming railcar that someone is waiting to board. They're sort of irrelevant at major stops, since most likely there will be people getting off anyhow. But at minor stations, or late at night, these would allow riders to be assured the next train would stop for them, allowing them to stand further back in the shelter and not have to worry about flagging down the next train.

Now, SEPTA says trains will only stop for "visible passengers." (Or, of course, if someone is getting off, which they will signal the driver sort of like on a bus.) This means riders waiting to board will have to be more vigilant to watch/listen for the incoming train. It's not the end of the world...in fact, being visible to the operator is a pretty standard way to get a bus or trolley to stop. But NHSL trains are faster than most buses or trolleys, and can sneak up on a station pretty quickly.

SEPTA offers no explanation for the shut down, although one can imagine it's to save on operational and/or repair costs. (Or maybe there are pranksters running around turning them on?)

Are there any other rail services in North America that use a similar system? I know there are obviously rail lines with flag stops, but I'm talking specifically about the use of a light to trigger a station stop.
In post #2 that sign in very fine print at the bottom:

FRAUDULENT ACTIVATION (bolt hole - MAY) RESULT IN PROSECUTION

In this day and age of cell phones - certainly there could be an APT for requesting a train stop - Really ! ! !
 

caravanman

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2004
Messages
3,884
Location
Nottingham, England.
I read somewhere that a large number of pedestrian crossing buttons are deliberately disconnected, although folk pressing them don't realise that!
I am not familiar with the locations of these "flag stops", maybe some places are out of signal coverage for a smartphone app? I guess most phones do have a flashlight option though...
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2020
Messages
3
Location
Norristown, PA
I am not surprised by this action.
Over the past six years or so, there seems to have been an effort buy SEPTA to downgrade the service. This was accomplished by removing the limited services, and then many of the express services. However, they have provided a second car to many of the runs. But in general, maintaining a fast and more comfortable service has been lost by making more frequent stops, less frequent service , and a bit more crowding. I hope (optimistically), that when we get out of the cloud of the pandemic, some improvement will be instituted to speed up the service with a retiunr of limited and express service..
 
Last edited:

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
2,434
Location
Baltimore. MD
I don't know what it's like during the usual weekday rush hours, but when I rode the NHSL from 69th St. to Bryn Mawr and back on a Saturday a couple of months ago, it didn't stop at many of the intermediate stations.
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2020
Messages
3
Location
Norristown, PA
An additional comment that I forgot to add: The station that I most frequently use has not had its Advance Light working properly for years. It simple stays on - even if the SEPTA vehicle stops there, it is not reset. I have seen the same at many other stations along the line. I guess it is just to expensive for SEPTA to maintain that function or no interest exists.
 
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