In 2007–08, a study of passenger side entrance door types and integration with overall car design was conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) for a client in the State of California. As found on many other intercity and commuter operations in North America, the client had for years endured a variety of technical challenges with the side entrance doors that had compromised passenger service and safety. Recent advances in side entrance door designs and the subsequent changes to new car specifications have opened the door to solutions to many of these challenges; solutions include hardware changes to the door panels and assemblies, and intelligent systems included in software and sensors of the door control for monitoring and diagnosing door settings, operations and faults in real time. Through field inspections and equipment evaluations, this study determined that the majority of the faults were caused by contamination. A principle solution to eliminating this contamination was determined to be in the door seals and subsequent door panel type. Among the recommendations made to the client were to change from a bi-parting pocket sliding door system to a bi-parting sliding plug door system. This paper presents two portions of the PB study: 1) an overview of the technical challenges of operating intercity and commuter rail passenger service in California, and 2) an industry study that identifies the latest in appropriate technologies for service in California. Modern rail passenger cars with similar service and bi-parting pocket sliding doors are evaluated. This paper also discusses how the findings in California can be applied to other commuter, heavy and light rail transit operations in North America.

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