SOA, BPEL working on the railroad

Commuter trains in the San Francisco, California area will soon be issuing tickets from a new SOA-based ticketing system, which combines BPEL, wireless handheld devices and a legacy data center.

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) from the new millennium meets business processes from the 19th century in an upgrade for the commuter rail systems linking Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Silicon Valley/San Jose, Calif.

 For the first time, we are going to know who is on the train and where they are going.
David Kutrosky
deputy directorCapitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA)

As gasoline prices in northern California hit $4+ per gallon, more business commuters and tourists are looking to passenger rail lines as an alternative to driving, says David Kutrosky, deputy director at Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA). A project to replace paper-based manual ticketing with an SOA-based ticket system using wireless handhelds on CCJPA trains was announced today by Oracle Corp.

The SOA system will not only speed ticketing for a growing number of people who would rather ride than drive, it will make for a more pleasant journey as northern California commuters transition to the rail system, Kutrosky said.

CCJPA is a publicly-subsidized service, jointly operated by Amtrak, the Union Pacific Railroad, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and the various agencies and communities it serves. The SOA-based ticketing system has clearly defined business goals with the agility to handle the changes in transportation demand brought on by the higher gasoline prices, Kutrosky said..

"We are planning to implement and run this service as a business," Kutrosky said. "We want to retain customers, bring them on the train, let them enjoy the experience and continue to use it."

It will also provide passengers with greater security in keeping with Homeland Security standards, he said. For the first time in California, he explained, the ticketing system will include security tracking of passengers on the 32 trains, traveling daily over a 170-mile rail corridor serving 16 stations.

"We're going to be able to provide a level of passenger security that hasn't been available before except on airlines," Kutrosky said. "For the first time, we are going to know who is on the train and where they are going." If there were an accident or other incident involving a train, CCJPA would be able provide law enforcement and rescue agencies with data on all of the passengers aboard in 30-minutes or less, he said. With the existing manual system, it could take as long as three or four days to identify all the passengers on a train if there was an accident or other problem, he explained.

BPEL-based ticketing system
The current ticketing system relies on colored slips of paper and conductors' memories to keep track of which passengers are getting off which stations, explained Mike Adams, vice president of business development at Innowave Technology, LLC., an Oracle partner doing the architecture and implementation.

The Automated Ticket Validation Services program his company has designed will leap frog from this 19th century way of doing things by providing Business Process Execution Language (BPEL)-based services, Adams said. Planning has been completed and development work is scheduled to begin this summer. When it goes live in early 2009, CCJPA conductors will use hand held scanners to validate and sell tickets and track passengers as they board and exit the train, he said.

The scanners will use a wireless Web connection to link the handhelds on the CCJPA trains to Amtrak's IT systems. Work has already begun on secure Web services standards-based data integration with Amtrak, Adams said.

For more information
Rail system builds SOA out from center of excellence

Oracle showcases its SOA standardization

"We've already defined the data elements we're going to need from them, so we can provide integration by secure means," he said.

The SOA ticketing system will provide business agility so if at a future date CCJPA wants to transition from wireless to WiFi or provide data integration with law enforcement systems, such as Interpol, those changes can be made quickly, Adams said.

The Automated Ticket Validation Services program is being developed using Oracle Fusion middleware, the Oracle SOA Suite and Oracle databases. It will be hosted on the existing IT hardware infrastructure at data center for Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which provides the day-to-day management support for the system.

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