Application of modern equipment and operation technology to the most historic and traditional of mass transportation systems has permitted refinement and upgrading of service and management of surface rail systems, without requiring extensive redesign of the vehicles and basic technology. The resulting reliability and straightforward operational characteristics of at grade rail equipment leads to relatively uncomplicated operation and management.
The operational risks of At Grade Rail essentially preclude the possibility of automatic operation of this technology. Engineers are required in each train and a second engineer is being required in many systems as a precautionary safety measure. This eliminates the efficiency of real time computerized management of the system.
Operational management of these systems is being improved at great expense in the Los Angeles region as an emergency safety measure. These improvements include automatic devices to stop the train if the engineer proceeds through a red signal or is traveling above a safe speed on a particular portion of the track.
Adjustment of schedules and capacities of rail routes can be accomplished in a timely manner if sufficient additional rolling stock is available for service. With adequate maintenance programs, system vehicles and equipment can be fairly easily kept in optimal running condition to support the quality and on-time performance records of the service. However, the history of At Grade Rail systems in the Southern California region contains numerous examples of inefficient, and in some cases dangerous, lack of system management. These incidents have been the result of both maintenance and operational failures and in some cases, intentional or accidental interference with surface traffic.
Modern ticket issuing and toll collection methods are not easily adapted to traditional trolley and surface rail systems. While more exotic technology is not always necessary or expected by riders of the rail systems, efforts are being made to develop ticketing systems that prevent the unpaid use of the service known to be present on many systems and yet do not delay the authorized users. Considerable public resistance to these systems has been demonstrated in recent months in some areas.