Transit safety is a community effort

Posted on May 15, 2013 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

SEPTA System Safety Director Scott Sauer demonstrates that electric trains are very quiet during the press conference held along the West Trenton Line.
SEPTA System Safety Director Scott Sauer demonstrates that electric trains are very quiet during the press conference held along the West Trenton Line.

Rail fatalities, accidental and intentional, are a national problem. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in 2012, there were 442 pedestrian trespass fatalities across the U.S. — 70% of those incidents occurred in 15 states, with California (74 deaths), Texas (32) and Pennsylvania (28) being the top three states.

Sadly, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has not been immune to this rash of rail-related fatalities. From January 2013 to April 2013, there were eight deaths involving SEPTA’s Regional Rail and Broad Street (subway) lines, putting  the agency on a pace this year that could exceed the 12 deaths on all modes in 2012.

But the majority of transit-related deaths are preventable, especially by following simple rules such as staying behind the yellow lines on platforms, never running for trains or vehicles and not trespassing in the track area.

To combat the rise in fatalities and remind the public of the dangers of walking along, playing by or cutting across its train and trolley tracks and through its rail yards and depots, SEPTA held its first-ever Safety Awareness Day on May 1.

During the morning rush, 500 agency employees and community partners distributed educational materials and answered safety questions at more than 160 SEPTA rail, trolley and bus stations, loops and transportation centers throughout the agency’s five-county Greater Philadelphia service area. Among the locations where SEPTA officials greeted passengers were those that have been identified by SEPTA’s System Safety Department as trespassing “hot spots.”

SEPTA Environmental Safety Officer Richard Harris hands safety information to a student heading to a school located near SEPTA’s Leamy Avenue trolley station.
SEPTA Environmental Safety Officer Richard Harris hands safety information to a student heading to a school located near SEPTA’s Leamy Avenue trolley station.

GM Joseph M. Casey and System Safety Director Scott Sauer held a press conference at a lot along SEPTA’s West Trenton Regional Rail Line, in an area where too many people make the illegal and dangerous choice of walking along the tracks.

“The tracks are the highway for our trains,” Casey said during the event. “You wouldn’t walk along the highway; why would you walk along the tracks?”   

SEPTA’s Safety Awareness Day is unprecedented — this is believed to be the only such all-out endeavor by a U.S. transit organization. But for the agency, this isn’t a one-day event — safety is part of the SEPTA culture every day.

“We make Operation Lifesaver presentations to a variety of school and community groups and at least once a month, we hold Safety Blitz programs where our safety officers visit railroad, rail transit and bus stations across the Authority, reviewing regulations and precautions with thousands of passengers,” said Sauer. “We often visit locations as a result of community request.”  

With more than one million riders traveling on its 2,200-mile service area every day, SEPTA is committed to providing a safe travel environment for its passengers.  But one of the goals of Safety Awareness Day was to reach all members of the public with the safety messages.

“We want our customers to share the educational materials and tips with their families, friends and neighbors,” said Casey. “We need the community to be our partners to help us spread the word about safety.”

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "My APTA Bus Roadeo Experience" here.

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