November 10, 2011

NJ Transit unveils rail crossing safety plan, system map

In an effort to reduce overall fatalities and accidents at New Jersey railroad crossings, a rail safety committee unveiled on Wednesday, strategies, which focused on engineering, enforcement and education.

The NJ Safety at Railroad Crossings Leadership Oversight Committee is comprised of representatives from agencies such as the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NJ Department of Education, State Police, Motor Vehicle Commission and NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety, NJ Transit Police, NJDOT, NJ Transit and Operation Lifesaver. It was convened in response to recent fatalities on the agency’s rail system.

The committee was tasked with developing strategies in the areas of engineering, enforcement and education to ramp up safety across the state’s rail network, particularly in areas where trains travel through densely populated neighborhoods. 

An immediate result of this renewed focus on safety is that locomotive engineers, train crew members and other field personnel will be actively engaged in identifying and reporting patterns of trespasser activity to enable law enforcement officials to respond appropriately.

One of the recommended approaches identified by the committee is for NJ Transit and the New Jersey Department of Transportation to perform a comprehensive re-inspection of the rail, light rail and bus systems to look for areas where additional safety measures can effectively be implemented. The inspections will also seek to identify changes in the neighborhoods surrounding rail lines that may have occurred in recent years, such as new residential developments or schools that may not have previously been there.

Another strategy highlighted by the committee is to develop partnerships with local stakeholders, such as the Department of Education and State legislators, to explore the possibility of mandating schools in municipalities along the railroad or near rail facilities to provide annual safety education programs to students about the dangers associated with the railroad.

The partnership approach would also include developing a Safety Summit involving community leaders, and representatives from groups such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Scout Clubs, where NJ Transit Police, rail, bus and light rail operations make a compelling presentation around the dangers of trespassing on railroad property and unsafe pedestrian practices.

Additional tactics that will be implemented focus on the area of public awareness, including the development of a safety public service announcement; creating a safety message, safety tips and a YouTube video for the agency's web page; exploring the use of social media tactics to influence teens and young adults; issuing safety alerts via My Transit, which sends travel information directly to customers’ emails or web-enabled mobile devices; and creating a safety bumper sticker or billboard to place on all NJ Transit non-revenue vehicles.

Additionally, NJ Transit unveiled a new, customer-friendly rail system map that will begin appearing at rail stations and on board trains this week. The new map, which was developed by the agency in-house, features a more open design and new color scheme for easy customer reference, as well as enhancements to more clearly indicate transfer points and service areas by rail line.

The new rail system marks a change from the previous map’s strictly geographical format to one that is more typical of transit maps. The more customer-friendly design features:

•    Color coding to designate individual rail spurs. For example, the Bergen County Line and the Gladstone Line, which were previously color-coded the same as the Main Line and Morris & Essex Lines, respectively, have been given their own separate colors.  These same colors will be used on station monitors throughout the system to make it easier for customers to board the correct train at their station.

•    Statewide scale that features an outline of New Jersey, allowing customers to more easily orient themselves.

•    Transfer points highlighted to provide a clearer indication of where customers can transfer between rail lines, and between rail and light rail services.

•    QR code, or “Quick Response” code, that enables smart phone users to scan and be directly linked to the mobile version of njtransit.com.

•    Updated information that includes the completion of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail 8th Street Station, accessibility improvements at Somerville, Ridgewood and Plauderville stations, and the addition of the future Pennsauken Transit Center.

In addition to being posted at rail stations and on board trains, the new rail system map will be available at njtransit.com under “Rider Tools.”  View map here.

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