Are you a software developer Interested in helping to ease the impact Ft. Collins train traffic has on its citizens? If so…..read on.
A few weeks ago I described a project I’ve been contemplating and recently began working on in earnest: A system to alert the people of Fort Collins to approaching trains. Since the train line bisects the city the 6-8 daily freight trains are quite disruptive.
After publishing that blog post a long-time friend and colleague, Brian Fromme, contacted me. Brian expressed interest in helping with the project. He suggested we make this an open source project. The project fits well with what open source is about: Having the community work on something that all can benefit from. So that’s what we’re going to do: Make TrainAlert an open source project.
If you’re interested in helping with this project please visit the project page on GitHub and sign up as a watcher. We’re currently working on building a list of tasks that need attention. We can definitely use your help!
Ft. Collins, Colorado (where I live) has had its “15 minutes of fame” a few times. It has appeared on a couple of “Top Places To Live” lists. It’s the home of New Belgium brewery, the makers of Fat Tire Ale. The town is also somewhat-infamously known for having a railroad track, literally, running down the middle of a downtown street. These trains cause quite the disruption to people and traffic. A few years ago the local newspaper reported on the situation. One point made was that the railroad does not have a set schedule, so there is "no way” for people in town to know when a train is going to wreak havoc, which happens 6-8 times each day.
No way to alert people? I beg to differ. I happen to live on the southern edge of town with an unobstructed view of the tracks. Ever since I read that article, I’ve wanted to find a way to alert people that a train is approaching so that pedestrians and drivers could respond appropriately. This would enable people planning to cross the tracks to get on the other side sooner rather than later.
About two weeks ago I started to tackle this challenge in earnest. With the availability of capable and inexpensive security cameras, a solution seemed (and is) pretty straightforward. I encountered an interesting challenge: Today’s cameras do a good job of detecting motion, but they don’t detect the direction of it. I needed a way to determine whether a train was traveling north or south.
A few days ago I discovered the security camera software called Zoneminder. Its motion detection capabilities are robust enough that, with the help of some kind folks in the Zoneminder user forum, I’m well on my way to having a reliable means of detecting, not only a passing train, but also which direction the train is traveling.
So stay tuned. A train alerting system for Ft. Collins is in the works. (And….since direction of train travel can be determined... a solution for Loveland is in the works too.)
Do you know of other towns that have their traffic disrupted by trains?