BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Mark Majewsicz puts a check next to a time on the transit schedule, glances up at the computer in front of him and then at a tv filled with different angles showing all the running rails.
“Attention to detail is extremely important in this job,” said Majewsicz. He’s a rail controller for the NFTA – he describes it as air traffic control for trains.
He’s tasked with managing when trains are leaving, which rails they’re riding on and how fast they’re operating at.
“We need to help them see the whole picture of everything going on on the system,” said Majewsicz who says this is his dream job.
His main priority, he says, is safety. With an estimated 5.2 million boardings a year, more than 100,000 times each week, people rely on the NFTA to get to and from destinations safely.
After the fatal transit crash in Hoboken, New Jersey, Majewsicz and others are looking at railway safety.
“Seeing occurrences like this ensure we pay closer attention and we don’t have an instance like that,” said the rail controller.
“What happened in New Jersey makes me a little concerned,” said longtime rail rider, Mark. “For the most part, i think the downtown train is safe.”
The NFTA Metro Rail operates with an Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system.
“The system if very finite,” said the controller. “It makes the operator take the speed command and they have to stop or take action to keep the train moving or it’ll stop itself.”
Majewsicz breaks down how it works: a controller will tell the operator to slow down or switch rails; the operator has 2.5 seconds to start doing that and if it doesn’t happen in that window, the train automatically shuts down.
“You want to have it happen quickly so that there’s enough distance so the train safely stops before it encounters whatever danger is ahead.”
This system is something the Hoboken transit line doesn’t have. The controller says, because the NFTA uses it, what happened in NJ cannot happen along the Buffalo rails.
“We want to make sure that our riding public will get on and off safely.”