There was a very no-nonsense article posted on Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website today about Blue Line safety. The piece doesn’t pull any punches, noting that the number of accidents and fatalities on the Blue Line remains higher than Metro’s other rail lines.
One point I want to clarify because the article combines numbers for 2012 and 2013. In the past calendar year — since last Aug. 29 — there have been five fatalities on the Blue Line, including three suicides.
If breaking it down by calendar year, in 2012 there were 35 accidents and nine fatalities on the Blue Line, including four suicides. Through nearly eight months of 2013, there have been 21 accidents and three fatalities on the Blue Line, including two suicides.
This is obviously a grim kind of progress when it comes to deadly accidents — if ‘progress’ is an the appropriate word. At least the numbers are seemingly moving in the right direction, perhaps a reflection of some of the work Metro has done in the past year to improve rail safety. Those efforts are detailed both in the ZevWeb article and below.
For those who want to see the actual statistics, here are the accident numbers for 2012:
Blue Line: 35 accidents, 9 fatalities
Expo Line: 5 accidents, 0 fatalities
Green Line: 1 accident, 0 fatalities
Gold Line: 5 accidents, 0 fatalities
Red Line: 1 accident, 1 fatality
2012 total: 47 accidents, 10 fatalities (five suicides)
Here are the accident numbers for 2013:
Blue Line: 22 accidents, 4 fatalities
Expo Line: 2 accidents, 0 fatalities
Green Line: 1 accident, 0 fatalities
Gold Line: 3 accidents, 0 fatalities
Red Line: 3 accidents, 1 fatality
2013 total: 31 accidents, five fatalities (three suicides)
Metro is holding a media event next week to promote Rail Safety Month in California. Here is the news release from Metro:
During California Rail Safety Month in September, Metro Is Reminding the Public to Observe the Three Es and Stay Alert Around the Trains
September is Rail Safety month in California, making it the perfect time to remind everyone to practice safe behavior near Metro trains. In 2009, the California Legislature designated September Rail Safety Month to encourage government, industry and local citizens to improve rail crossing safety and support for rail safety.
“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. We’re encouraged by the significant drop in accidents and suicides but we want to remind the public that there are only so many signs and gates we can put up and so much fencing. They must take responsibility for their own safety and remain alert around the trains.”
Although there has been a dramatic reduction in Metro Blue Line accidents this year (3 fatalities versus 8 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.
The Metro Blue Line is a good example of how public education and Metro engineering efforts have resulted in a safer line, both for passengers and for those who travel near and across the tracks.
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.
But the public is reminded to stay alert and to practice safe behavior near rail. Rail runs on a line set in stone. It can’t change its mind or its path. But people can.