Rutgers University has successfully designed, built, and tested a device that dynamically bridges the gap between the door sill of a commuter rail train and the edge of a passenger loading platform. The device is intended to provide three functions: (1) safe and easy access for mobility-impaired travelers, (2) protection against slip and fall injuries for all passengers, and (3) automated data logging of actual gap widths in order to alert maintenance personnel of track movement or other changes in accordance with the FRAs approach to managing gap safety.
This innovation applies to commuter rail trains that use a trap door to provide access to both ground level pedestrian movement and high level platforms. It is a replacement for the existing trap door, and includes a movable plate that is automatically extended and retracted by a linear actuator arrangement from within the trap door. The unit incorporates a motor drive that is compatible with the rail car power supply, sensors for safe operation, and a magnetic pulse sensor mounted on the motor shaft for measuring the length of the extension before contact with the platform, thus measuring the gap width. This method of dynamically bridging the gap has been designed to reduce the current operational cost and delays resulting from the manual use of portable plates that are commonly used to address ADA requirements at stations. It will improve the safety of passengers by minimizing slip and fall accidents, and can assist transit agency personnel in implementing the FRA Office of Safety recommendations for managing gap safety by providing regular readings of the actual gap width at each station over time. New Jersey Transit collaborated with the Rutgers University research team on this project.