September 24, 2013

L.A. Metro appeals to public after rash of rail suicides

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is appealing to the public to draw awareness to suicide prevention after a rash of suicides on the Metro Blue Line.

Three of the four deaths on the Metro Blue Line in 2013 have been suicides. Last year at this time there were eight deaths on the line including four suicides.

“Light rail trains operate at grade in urban areas throughout the world without the prevalence of suicide we’re experiencing on the Metro Blue Line,” said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois in a statement. “I’m very concerned about this and am appealing to the public to help Metro reverse the trend."

The Metro Blue opened in July 1990 and is one of the nation’s busiest light rail lines carrying nearly 30 million passengers a year. It spans 22 miles with 22 stations from downtown Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles.

Metro continues to invest substantial resources to bolster safety including installation of special four-quadrant gates and swing gates at several high-traffic pedestrian crossings. Also, there are fences and in-pavement warning lights.

On the education front, Metro has deployed safety ambassadors — retired bus and rail operators — assigned to spots where accidents have occurred in the past. They answer questions and warn people about the danger of trying to beat an on-coming train.

Also, Metro began a partnership with the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center to help prevent suicides. Signs with the suicide crisis line had been posted in the stations and the alignment.

The safety ambassadors also watch for potential suicide victims. And so far, they have stopped at least three would-be suicides on the Blue Line. As part of the safety campaign, trains are covered with safety messages to warn the public with messages such as “Heads Up! Watch for Trains!”  

Besides suicides there is rampant illegal and unsafe behavior by pedestrians and motorists around the Blue Line tracks and stations. Metro recently filmed and took photos of people who  routinely ignore the flashing lights, bells, and crossing gates and dash in front of oncoming trains or trespass on the tracks.  

Sheriff’s deputies from the Transit Service Bureau have been conducting targeted enforcement at high-risk crossings and motorcycle officers patrolled selected stations ticketing violators.

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