A fatal New York train derailment on Dec. 1 on a Metro-North Railroad commuter train, which appears to be the result of a lapse in the solo engineer's consciousness, has politicians demanding comprehensive, industry-wide implementation of positive train controls (PTC)—a step advocated by the National Transportation Safety Board for decades and one the rail industry already has been struggling to achieve.

In a Dec. 4 statement, American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President Michael Melaniphy said that, "as of June 2013, [U.S. commuter systems] have spent at least $458 million installing PTC. It is estimated that the cost of full implementation of PTC will be at least $2.75 billion. To date, Congress hasappropriated $50 million for PTC."

Moreover, "APTA has asked the Federal Communications Commission to provide free radio spectrum," which is required for PTC-related communication between trains and signal towers, he added.

In the meantime, Metro-North Railroad says it is moving quickly to improve safety at critical curves and movable bridges at the behest of New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the Federal Railroad Administration. "Two-thirds of Metro-North's operating fleet is equipped with alerter devices in the engineer's position to ensure engineers remain attentive, and the remaining one-third is equipped with dead man's controls," the railroad said in a release. "Within the next year, all equipment without alerters will be either retrofitted to include them or replaced with new equipment that includes alerters."

Other measures include reducing maximum speeds at 26 sites and increased compliance monitoring via event data recorders and various radar-gun locations, the railroad said. Engineers will no longer be solo in the cab.