Petika brings detailed knowledge to PTC team

PTC Business Systems Analyst Kelly Petika

Kelly Petika also has joined the Positive Train Control (PTC) team.

The former chief dispatcher is now PTC business systems analyst.

Her role will be to create a detailed digital map that will be used by on-board and wayside equipment. Every characteristic of the railroad must be accounted for because anything can affect locomotive operation. With millions of datapoints to integrate into the map, the finished product will be intricate. Petika believes the task of bringing it into being will be the challenge of a career.

“I am in awe that I get to be a part of this groundbreaking effort,” she said. “This is a whole new world and light years ahead of how we’ve been operating.”

Petika’s experience as a dispatcher makes her ideal for the responsibilities, as she’s already highly familiar with geographic information system (GIS) of the entire railroad. She started as a clerk 14 years ago.

“Dispatching is a vast enterprise,” Petika said. “As a dispatcher, you never have the same day twice. It requires dealing with curveballs and understanding the ins and outs of moving traffic. The dispatcher has to be in control of everything.”

Experience has given her a special insight into PTC’s purpose and implementation. But in addition to accounting for signals and Form Bs, PTC must also be aware of physical characteristics, such as grade, to be effective. The computerized version of the track PTC will use must account for that. Petika works constantly with a contractor in the field that is surveying the landscape and reporting data back to her. The mapping is not yet complete.

“It’s a lengthy process and has to account for every possible scenario,” she said, noting that thousands of test cases must be considered.

While building a computer model might seem straightforward, there are 26 miles of railroad to cover, including 12 interlockings and various critical features, such as signals.   

The Belt’s owner railroads have been cooperative sharing information, Petika said.

One of the most appealing aspects of the job is collaborating with her new teammates, who have helped make the Herculean task before her manageable.

“They are the smartest people I’ve ever met,” she said. “And they are as driven and excited as I am.”

With so many varied tasks that have to be performed in unison, Petika said it’s incumbent upon members of the team to continue working like a “well-oiled machine.”