Leaf season means slower mass transit

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With “leaf season” officially under way, rail commuters may be facing longer trips.

We all know fall is when the leaves hit the ground. In the case of transit agencies, the leaves hit the tracks.  And PATCO trains have to slow down to deal with residue on the tracks, said general manager John Rank.

“When the leaves fall and they land on the rails and the train wheels crunch over top, they break down and they release an oily residue that could land on top of the rail,” he said.

That makes stopping more difficult for the trains on the high-speed line between South Jersey and Philadelphia.

“The train slides, and we get flat spots on the wheels,” Rank said. “And over time you hear thump-thump-thump-thump.”

Trains handle that by slowing down, he said. And PATCO also suspends work on the rails during the week to make up for the slower trains. 

SEPTA also is combating “slippery rail” with an aggressive maintenance program to remove oily deposits on the tracks. Workers also blast away leaves and leaf residue with high-pressure washing equipment.

“Slippery rail” season is expected to go into early December.

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