Rail Safety Week is a collaborative effort among Operation Lifesaver, Inc., state Operation Lifesaver programs, and rail safety partners across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. - Photo: OLI

Rail Safety Week is a collaborative effort among Operation Lifesaver, Inc., state Operation Lifesaver programs, and rail safety partners across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Photo: OLI

Transit agencies, such as Amtrak, Sound Transit, and New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, have been observing Rail Safety Week, which began Sept. 18. Here's a look at what some agencies and partners like Operation Lifesaver Inc. have been doing.

Amtrak, OLI Launch Operation Clear Track

The Amtrak Police Department and Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) announced they are joining law enforcement and other first responders across the U.S. for “Operation Clear Track,” the single largest rail safety initiative in the U.S. 

This annual initiative takes place during Rail Safety Week.

Operation Clear Track and Rail Safety Week raise awareness about the importance of making safe choices near railroad tracks and crossings.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, nine out of 10 rail-related fatalities result from crossing collisions and trespass incidents. Trespassing along railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America. 

Nationally, more than 400 trespass fatalities occur each year, the vast majority of which are preventable.

During Operation Clear Track, law enforcement representatives conduct safety outreach at high-incident railroad grade crossings in various locations, sharing safety information and enforcing crossing and trespassing laws by issuing citations and warnings to violators.

Metro-North Railroad, LIRR Announce Public Events

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro-North Railroad announced a series of events surrounding National Rail Safety Week, which aims to raise awareness of rail safety and empower the general public to keep themselves safe around stations, highway-rail grade crossings, and railroad rights-of-way. 

Participation in the national week-long education campaign is part of the MTA Railroads’ TRACKS (Together Railroads And Communities Keeping Safe) programs, the safety education programs led by the LIRR and Metro-North safety departments to reach out to customers and neighbors in the communities they serve, including schools, camps, daycare facilities, and community groups.

“Rail Safety Week is a great opportunity to remind the communities we serve about the importance of staying safe around railroad tracks,” said Metro-North President and LIRR Interim President Catherine Rinaldi. “Safety is at the center of everything we do, and these outreach events allow us to spread that message and educate customers on helpful tips for keeping safe.” 

Railroad staff will be joined by the MTA Police Department as well as representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration, New York State Department of Transportation, Connecticut Department of Transportation, Connecticut OLI, and Response Crisis Center. 

Sound Transit Launches Rail Safety Week Campaign

Sound Transit announced it is kicking off a campaign to educate and empower the public about the importance of making safe choices around trains and tracks. 

“Safety is our number one priority at Sound Transit. That’s why Rail Safety Week is so important for us,” said David Wright, Sound Transit’s chief safety officer. “It’s about saving lives through education and empowering everyone to make safe decisions around trains and tracks. We continue to do our part by continuously taking steps to enhance safety for the public, our riders, and staff throughout our entire system.”

During OLI's 2023 Rail Safety Week, Sound Transit will highlight and promote the agency's five core safety messages and align these messages with the overall theme of #STOPTrackTragedies.

These five messages are:

  1. Look both ways
  2. Headphones off and screens down
  3. Take crosswalks, not shortcuts
  4. Stay behind the yellow line
  5. Bike smart, ride safe. Cross tracks at 90 degrees

Throughout the week, the agency’s social media channels will offer these messages and the various themes selected by OLI for nationwide promotion. Sound Transit staff will also be out speaking with customers and reinforcing these track and train safety messages.

St. Louis Metro Transit Offers Safety Reminders

St. Louis’ Metro Transit announced it is sharing important rail safety reminders.

Because MetroLink trains are powered by overhead electrical wires, they run quieter than freight trains. Never walk on the tracks or try to beat the train to the station platform or at a street crossing.

It takes a MetroLink train 600 feet – the length of two football fields — to come to a complete stop when it is traveling at top speeds of about 55 mph. More than 50% of collisions occur at crossings equipped with lights and/or gates. And, nine out of 10 rail-related fatalities involve grade crossing collisions or incidents with trespassers.

“Safety around trains and tracks is very important, and our team is committed to keeping everyone safe through education, audio announcements, and signage posted at stations and transit centers,” said Taulby Roach, president/CEO of Bi-State Development, which operates the MetroLink system in the St. Louis region. “These incidents are preventable.”

Here are six things to know about light-rail safety:

  1. Stand Back: Observe the pavement markings. Stand back from the platform, behind the painted or raised markings. Trains overhang tracks. Never run or ride scooters, skateboards, or bicycles on a station platform.
  2. Stay off the Tracks: If you accidentally drop an item onto the tracks, do not attempt to retrieve it. No material item is worth losing your life or a limb. Notify Metro Transit via the Passenger Assist Telephone. There is one located on every MetroLink platform.
  3. See Tracks? Think Train: Remain alert for incoming trains from both directions at station platforms and while driving or walking. Don’t keep your head buried in your cell phone screen. Pay attention. Listen and watch for pedestrian and traffic signals.
  4. Be Aware of High Voltage: Never walk next to or in between the rails. High-voltage electrical power can be transferred to poles from wires above the trains.
  5. Cross Legally and Safely: Cross only at designated pedestrian rail crossings. Observe signs, signals, and pavement markings. Always be looking for a train coming in either direction.
  6. Wait, Look Both Ways: Always expect a train. Trains are closer and faster than they may appear. Multiple tracks may mean multiple trains. Look for additional trains on adjacent tracks.

New Orleans RTA Launches Awareness Campaign

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) launched an awareness campaign to promote safety around our streetcar lines as part of Rail Safety Week. 

The campaign is part of a grant awarded to RTA by Operation Lifesaver, Inc., which works with rail partners across North America.

Throughout the week, RTA will be encouraging residents and visitors to be mindful of the streetcars’ right-of-way along our five streetcar lines to prevent crashes and injury. 

Riders will learn more about best safety practices through messages on its buses, streetcars, and ferries and at its RTA facilities, including informational videos. 

Additional safety messages will be available on its website, social media platforms, and for employees at RTA facilities.

The safety campaign encourages everyone to use extreme caution near streetcars. This includes drivers paying attention when making left or U-turns at, or directly crossing, streetcar line tracks, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists navigating the neutral grounds.

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