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I posted yesterday about one of the toughest issues facing Metro: reducing the number of fatalities along the Blue Line. While there has been progress in this area — the number of train-motor vehicle collisions has dropped significantly — the agency wants to keep making the line as safe as it possibly can be.
A big challenge toward that end is increasing the enforcement of laws designed to keep motorists and pedestrians off the tracks when a train is present. There is no shortage of laws on the books and, yet, Metro officials believe there are still too many motorists and pedestrians taking unnecessary and illegal risks around the train.
The above video, in fact, was taken by Metro officials — it’s part of a longer video on the Blue Line — and provides you a glimpse at the atmosphere around the Artesia station and some of the safety issues there.
On the enforcement front, Metro currently has a four-prong strategy:
•As discussed in yesterday’s post, photo enforcement cameras are used along the Blue Line corridor, resulting in almost 50,000 citations being issued to motorists between 1995 and 2009. Common infractions include making illegal left-turns across the tracks and running red lights.
•Metro also contracts with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for five officers to patrol the Blue Line corridor, mostly on weekdays. The officers issue citations to both motorists and pedestrians. In 2009, tickets were issued to 1,300 pedestrians and 6,900 motorists, according to Lt. Jenny Bethune. Pedestrians are often cited for failing to heed warning bells and signals and walking across the tracks. A red light violation will set motorists back $436; ignoring a don’t walk sign or jaywalking is a $175 hit to the wallet.
•Metro is also putting two “Rail Safety Ambassadors” on the Blue Line for the next few months. The ambassadors — retired bus and train operators — have previously been used on the Gold Line. Their job is not to enforce the laws, but rather to encourage safety, answer questions from passengers and community members and report their observations back to Metro safety officials.
“Everyone needs to pay attention to the train,” Lt. Bethune said. “That’s why we’re out there — we’re trying to make people pay attention. We want to get the message across that it’s everyone’s duty to be out there and beware.”
Bethune said officers, in particular, see two dangerous activities from pedestrians. In the first, walkers are so focused on a train coming from one direction they’ll forget to check the other direction before walking across the tracks. In the second, people tend to dash across the tracks because they’re in a hurry, oftentimes trying to catch a train.
“They’re in a hurry, maybe they’re getting off a bus and they’ll run across the tracks trying to catch a train but they’re not running fast enough and they don’t beat the train,” Bethune said. “During the peak period commuting time, the trains are usually coming every few minutes, so we tell people just wait for the next train.”
Bethune also encouraged community members to call the Sheriff’s Department if they see unsafe behavior around the tracks. The dispatch phone number is 323-563-5000.
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