First Responders Response Time Analysis Considering At-Grade Crossing Blockage: City of Saskatoon Case Study

Author(s): Garreth Rempel, Peter Y. Park, Wook Rak Jung, Godfred Yeboah, Dan Paulsen, Dave Rumpel

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In North America, highway-railway grade crossings can lead to significant travel delays for emergency responders trying to reach an incident. Grade separation cannot be justified for most grade crossings, but a grade crossing monitoring system (GCMS) can detect a blockage and communicate the information to local emergency dispatchers in real-time. As every minute can be critical in emergency work, the potential for such systems clearly needs investigation. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan has numerous grade crossings and blockages caused by long slow moving or stationary freight trains. This study uses two GIS-based analyses: service area analysis to show how the fire responders’ service area changes with and without a grade crossing blockage; and network analysis to estimate the impact of GCMS on fire responders’ response times both with and without a blockage. Both analyses are quantitative and both can present the results visually. The results from the Saskatoon examples show significant savings in response times by, for example, avoiding detours made on the assumption that a road is blocked, avoiding taking a route found to be blocked and then having to take a detour, and choosing to wait at a crossing for a blockage to clear when the GCMS indicates that this is more efficient than taking a detour route. Although all cities and road networks are different, this study demonstrates that a GCMS can benefit certain jurisdictions by improving their emergency services and saving lives and property.