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How the Largest City in the US Put SCADA to Use

Known as the cultural capital of the United States, New York City is home to a very diverse group of people. The city is made up of five boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, and the Bronx. New York houses many great landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and the Empire State Building, With over 8,000,000 residents spanning the five boroughs, New York City is a hub for commerce, art, education, technology, and so much more.

Also home to the New York City Transit System, New York�s train system is widely used. Wikipedia tells us that �NYCTA has a daily ridership of 7 million trips.� With such a huge demand, it is of the utmost importance to keep things running smoothly. With this idea in mind, New York chose to implement a SCADA system to optimize functionality.

The Problem

The subway system was often faced with challenging situations due to cold and snowy weather. The subways system in New York features a third rail that supplies power, but does not support the weight of the trains. In particularly cold or snowy weather, this third rail would freeze or become surrounded by snow, causing interruptions. To prevent this from occurring, heating elements were placed on the rails that would melt the snow and ice.

One of the problems with these heating elements is that they were turned on manually. This meant that a person had to go and physically switch the heaters on. Because of the difficult positioning of these heating elements, the heaters would run continuously from October through May of each year. This was not only dangerous for the workers, but was extremely inefficient because the heaters would run regardless of the weather.

To fix this situation, New York turned their sights on a SCADA solution.

The Solution

A private company instituted a SCADA system based on wireless communications that allows workers to control the infrastructure from a central interface. Because of this, workers no longer need to endanger themselves to manage the heating elements.

PLCs were installed along the third rail at the site of the heating elements to ensure they were functioning properly. These devices then communicate with the central interface, allowing remote access. Now, these heating elements are only turned on when necessary, rather than chugging away constantly. In addition, the new SCADA system gives workers the ability to run remote diagnostics and easily perform system upgrades.

Winning Results

This system has managed to provide solid and reliable results for several years. Despite facing inclement weather, which included two hurricanes and snow storms of up to 30 inches, the SCADA system has continued to work steadfastly and without issue.

The use of wireless technology allowed for the installation and normal operations to take place without any interruption in train services. The SCADA system has also saved the city over $1 billion per year, while increasing the safety of the workers by keeping them off the tracks.

To read more about how the New York Transit Services approached their SCADA setup, check out Phoenix Contact.

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