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.
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.”
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Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.