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Passenger Trains > Touch tracks, get zapped

Date: 06/10/03 08:31
Touch tracks, get zapped
Author: F40PHR231

News article from The Oregonian. Think twice before messing with our tracks eh? Maybe it\'s time to wear rubber dog shoes, or get a hoverboard.


Wet MAX line giving guide dogs a jolt



BEAVERTON -- Public transportation is supposed to be easy for disabled people to use. But a quirk in the Westside MAX line is giving electric shocks to guide dogs for the blind, and nobody seems to know why.

Advocates for the blind say it happens after it rains at MAX stops west of the train yard near the Elmonica/Southwest 170th Avenue Station. Dogs step on wet tracks and get a jolt. The shock isn\'t strong enough to hurt the dogs, but it is enough to spook them out of doing their jobs.

"Whoever is responsible, there\'s got to be a solution," said Patricia Kepler, president of Guide Dog Users of Oregon, a private group that trains guide dogs and matches them with people who need them.

TriMet, the Portland area\'s public transportation agency, said it doesn\'t know what is causing the problem but figures it most likely involves Portland General Electric, the utility serving the westside. PGE said it is equally unsure of what is to blame.

Kepler said at least three dogs were so affected by the shock that they had to go through training again. One couldn\'t be retrained and had to be retired.

Kepler said each guide dog represents a $50,000 investment in time and training. The animals are given to people who need them without charge.

Guide dogs are specially trained to help people who are blind or nearly so. They are partners and companions, doing tasks the blind can no longer do for themselves: getting on and off public transportation safely, for example.

The reports of dogs being shocked by Westside MAX tracks began in late 2000.

"The first gentleman whose dog was shocked was trying to cross the MAX tracks," said Kepler, whose guide dog, Chance, is a German shepherd.

Kepler said the man\'s dog yelped and jumped back when its paw touched the track.

Electricity is sent through the tracks to operate signal lights and other devices along the line. But the voltage is so low it shouldn\'t cause problems, said Terry Dolan, manager of rail transportation for MAX.

By design, the tracks carry 15 to 25 volts at most, he said. Tracks in downtown Portland and on the eastside operate within these limits and aren\'t zapping dogs.


Rest of story here


Date: 06/10/03 09:17
Re: Touch tracks, get zapped
Author: soo6617

Possibly too long a distance between grounding ties on the rails, since the rails are return path for traction current. Especially since it is only on part of the system.

Date: 06/10/03 12:15
Re: Touch tracks, get zapped
Author: rresor

Strange. I\'ve touched lots of running rails on New York City Transit and Amtrak and never gotten the slightest tingle, since while the return current does run through the rail, it\'s the "low potential" side of the circuit. Signal voltage is nowhere near strong enough to shock anybody.

My guess (strictly a guess) would be that there is a high-voltage cable nearby (probably underground) that is inducing a voltage in an improperly bonded rail (this kind of thing can happen with ROW fences that aren\'t grounded if you\'re using 50 Kv catenary).

Date: 06/10/03 13:45
Re: Touch tracks, get zapped
Author: john1082

Regardless of the cause, it needs fixing! All the players can point fingers, but it doesn\'t do anybody any good.

All the players need to get together NOW: Portland transit, the electric company, any other utility companies in the neighborhood - both above ground and below ground, and the city. On a day with little traffic, isolate the section, and determine the extent of the problem by checking the "leakage". Once isolated and identified geographically, do what it takes to fix the problem. No studies, no votes, no NIMBYS, no environmental impact studies. FIX THE PROBLEM. It sounds like it may be a problem related to one or more utility companies & the transit company. Until the cause is isolated and identified, everyone needs to play together to fix the problem.

The loss of a service dog\'s services may seem trivial, but the loss to the folks who need them is immeasurable. This goes beyond an irritating pothole in the street.

Date: 06/10/03 14:18
Re: Touch tracks, get zapped
Author: ge13031

Grab the nearest dog and megger him (or her) out and apply ohms law. I don\'t know the average resistance of a dog but I run about one meg ...not enough to cause a shock with these voltages.

PS: there was enough pickup from distant lightning to drive my dads dog nuts on a 25 ft cable.

Date: 06/10/03 18:15
Re: Touch tracks, get zapped
Author: RDG484

Any third rail around your neck of the woods?

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