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September 4, 2013

L.A. Metro campaign urges rail safety

Photo courtesy justefrain

Photo courtesy justefrain
Although there has been a dramatic reduction in Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Blue Line accidents this year (three fatalities versus eight during the same period last year) — and other rail lines are experiencing low accident rates similar to previous years — Metro continues to develop methods for keeping vehicles and pedestrians aware of and away from moving rail.

"Significant progress has been made but as long as accidents continue, we will continue our efforts to stop them," said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. "During the past year Metro has aggressively pursued a program to stop rail-related accidents and suicides along rail by pursuing the three Es: education, engineering and enforcement."

Metro Safety Ambassadors — many of whom are retired rail and bus operators — are assigned to various spots where accidents have occurred in the past. On the Blue Line, 14 Ambassadors are positioned at seven key locations in two shifts, Monday through Friday, when accidents are likely to occur, to answer questions and to warn and educate pedestrians and passengers about the dangers of standing too close to the tracks and trying to beat on-coming trains.

They also are there to remind patrons and pedestrians of good safety behaviors, such as looking both directions when crossing the tracks since trains come from both directions.

Metro's safety education department has conducted yearly presentations at 160 schools within a 1.5-mile radius of the alignment. It has developed videos and CDs on safe and unsafe behaviors around tracks and trains. Suicide prevention signs have been installed at all stations and at high-speed gated crossings. Additional safety material has been distributed to 250,000 doors near the Blue Line.

And earlier this year, Metro began an innovative partnership with the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center, which works with referrals from Metro to help stop suicides along the Blue Line.

  • A variety of engineering efforts also have been instituted. They include:
  • A closed at-grade crossing on Flower Street.
  • Four quadrant gates and vehicle detection loops at six intersections.
  • Flashing "Train" signs as replacements for stagnant "No Left Turn" signs in some places.
  • Additional flashing lights and bells at several gated crossings.
  • Swing gates at several high-traffic pedestrian crossings.
  • Railroad-type barriers at several crossings.
  • Colored stamped crosswalks and pavement markings.
  • Electric horns as replacements for mechanical horns on the trains.
  • Headlights modified on all light-rail trains to flash alternately.
  • Installation of in-pavement warning lights.

Law enforcement also has been heavily involved in the education process. Motorcycle patrols by Transit Services Bureau have been monitoring high-risk areas where accidents have occurred in the past. Law officers have conducted targeted enforcement at high-risk crossings, issuing dozens of tickets to encourage behavior changes.

 RELATED: Watch L.A. Metro's launch of it rail safety ambassador program here.

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