Traffic Control: Science or Art?

This article describes how the two types of railroad traffic control used in the United States (U.S.) are split nearly evenly by track-miles between non-signaled, a.k.a. dark, territory, and track-circuit based signaled operations, with the latter handling fourfold the amount of traffic. All traffic approaches, including the various levels of Europe’s electronic train control system (ETCS), are based on the principle of generating movement authorities for trains that do not overlap with authorities of other trains, in order to maintain train separation. In order to accomplish this, the science is very straightforward. That is, traffic control systems need to know both the occupancy/vacancy of each segment of track as well as the possible existence of conflicting authorities before generating new authorities. These two requirements provide for the vitality and integrity of railroad operations. What continues to be missing in traffic control for most railroads, including those in the United States, is the art of traffic control science from both a technical and functional perspective.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Figures; Photos;
  • Pagination: pp 42, 44, 46, 48-49
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01449718
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 22 2012 9:14AM