The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is partnering with Waze to improve safety at railroad crossings of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.
Both railroads in their histories have implemented mandated grade crossing warning systems, by ensuring each public crossing has the required gates, red flashing lights, and warning bells — in addition to train horns blowing as they approach. This is the first feature of its kind to debut on the app and is tied to LIRR’s ongoing collaboration with Waze as part of the Connected Citizens Program — a free, two-way data share of publicly available traffic information. Metro-North is also working closely with Waze, in efforts to develop a similar partnership.
On June 10, International Level Crossing Awareness Day, Waze will integrate a railroad crossing warning to alert users at a set of 10 pilot locations across Long Island. The rollout will continue until all 296 LIRR grade crossing locations are live on the app.
The partnership comes after an aggressive review of potential railroad crossing safety enhancements by the MTA and the LIRR has recently taken additional steps to improve grade crossing safety. Last month, LIRR President Phil Eng announced an accelerated plan to install flexible, four-foot high reflective delineators, as well as extended roadway markings and additional reflective devices to better alert drivers, who may become confused by GPS directions while driving in darkness or inclement weather, that they should not make a turn onto the tracks
The safety issue at grade crossings continues to be a growing problem as distracted or confused motorists, some using GPS devices, inadvertently turn onto tracks instead of parallel roadways.
The LIRR in 2017 recorded 29 reports of cars on tracks, in addition to 17 grade-crossing accidents involving the LIRR and motor vehicles. Year to date, through May 22, there have been two grade-crossing accidents and 21 reports of cars on tracks.
Metro-North also grapples with this issue. In 2017, there were 26 incidents reported of vehicles on tracks; this year, through May 29, there have been seven. In 2017, Metro-North recorded two grade crossing accidents; through May 29 this year, two grade crossing accidents have been reported.
MTA Police aims to continue its aggressive campaign to combat these potentially life-threatening incidents by patrolling near railroad rights-of-way. In April 2018, MTA Police issued 147 summonses for grade crossing violations at LIRR rights-of-way, with a year-to-date total of 462 summonses, which includes driving behaviors that could contribute to a potential event.