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Metrolink promotes public safety during California Rail Safety

Week

As CEO of Metrolink, I have great respect for commuter trains. I’ve

spent my entire career trying to get people to ride on them and put

that commute time to better use than strangling a steering wheel in

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bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I commute by train myself and daresay I have spent more time

around trains than most people. As much as I love trains, as

comfortable as I feel around them, I still slow down, crack a window

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and approach all tracks with extreme caution, and because of my

experience I am probably a whole lot more skilled at judging the

speed of an oncoming train than the average person. Yet I am still

humbled by trains and I am always amazed that anyone would take risks

around these giants.

Would you casually drive across freeway lanes? Would you stroll

across the freeway or teach your children to put pennies on the

freeway because you did it when “you were a kid?” Would you walk your

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dog on the freeway? Would you drive through a red signal, bypass

warning gates and make a hard left onto the freeway into oncoming

traffic?

Here at Metrolink, we have witnessed all of this and more. We are

in a constant educational battle about the dangers of moving trains.

At every opportunity, we strive to get the message out.

Trains move very fast, in both directions, and one must never walk

or play on or near train tracks. Metrolink trains can be operated

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from the locomotive or the cab car. You can’t assume which direction

the train is traveling by looking for the locomotive. All train

tracks should be approached with care. It is a mistake to race the

train, ignore the warning lights, drive or walk around the safety

barriers or stop on the tracks. Tragically, it may very well be the

last mistake you ever make.

Unfortunately, education and warnings can only do so much. Most

railroad crossings have multiple warning signs including train

whistles, flashing lights and safety gates. I think it is fair to

include the individual’s responsibility to make safe choices into the

safety equation.

Yes, our trains run through densely populated areas. That’s the

whole idea -- to get people to think in terms of working in the city

without driving to the city. This is not a new idea that suddenly

sprouted in Southern California. It’s common in most major cities

around the world. Commuter trains are part of the urban landscape,

and they are 15 times safer than any passenger car and are usually

moving faster than any car on the freeway.

We are seeking, in concert with other modes of transportation, to

find solutions to the ever-increasing gridlock problem in Southern

California. There are many benefits to commuter rail. Rail can grow

with ridership demand. It is reliable, which was amply demonstrated

after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, when Metrolink continued to run

while a number of freeway overpasses collapsed. Trains are a

comfortable, all-weather mode of transportation, ideal for longer

commutes.

With a modicum of caution and common sense, trains can coexist

with passenger cars. This requires that drivers in cars, pedestrians,

bicyclists, dog walkers and everyone else with a notion to cross the

tracks use extreme care.

We are always looking for a fresh or new approach to demonstrate

the need for safe behavior around trains. During this past year we

were part of a televised, staged collision of a train with a

mid-sized car which dramatically showed what little was left of the

car. On literally thousands of occasions we have dispatched our

safety team to educate the public. The state Legislature, meanwhile,

has designated the week of Sept. 8-14 as Rail Safety Week throughout

California.

We hope to get out the message to even more of our citizens that

it is dangerous as well as illegal to stop on the railroad tracks,

trespass on the right-of-way or pull a vehicle into a crossing while

the warning lights are flashing. Sure, it’s only a misdemeanor. But

it’s a misdemeanor that sometimes caries the death penalty.

DAVID R. SOLOW

Chief Executive Officer

Metrolink, Southern California

Regional Rail Authority


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