For most people living and working along the rail corridor, the sight of Caltrain operating daily service up and down the Peninsula is commonplace. However, complacency around a heavy commuter train and relatively open access to the rails often leads to tragedy.
To highlight the importance of safety around train tracks and the high rate of intentional deaths on the rails, the Caltrain Board adopted a proclamation designating September as both Railroad Safety Month and Suicide Prevention Month during its monthly meeting.
“At Caltrain, safety is always our number one priority and that commitment extends far beyond the month of September, with a year-round emphasis on safety around trains and train tracks,” said Gillian Gillett, Chair of the Caltrain Board of Directors. “We are also painfully reminded by the individuals who all too frequently take their own lives on the tracks that mental health is often an important factor in these tragedies.”
The rail agency addresses safety through a comprehensive, ongoing program that focuses on the “Three E’s” of railroad safety – Education, Engineering and Enforcement.
Caltrain has also historically collaborated with suicide prevention agencies to prevent intentional deaths on the rails by posting crisis hotline signage at points all along the corridor and collaborating with the San Mateo County Suicide Prevention Committee.
For the last 15 years, Caltrain has planned or participated in an annual rail safety event in conjunction with Operation Lifesaver, an international model program for rail safety. Since 2009, California Operation Lifesaver has declared September as Rail Safety Month. As one of the nonprofit organization’s community partners, Caltrain joins in their efforts to promote rail safety initiatives.
This year, Caltrain will be promoting rail safety awareness at Facebook Festivals in Menlo Park on Saturday, September 21. As a community outreach effort, staff will have a booth set-up at this event with educational materials and giveaways to promote rail safety.
On Thursday, September 12, Caltrain is also co-sponsoring the BraveMaker film screening of The Edge of Success, which documents the tragic string of suicides among high school students in Palo Alto over the last decade. The event will take place at the Fox Theatre in Downtown Redwood City. Doors open at 6 p.m. with free refreshments and the screening begins at 7 p.m., followed by a panel discussion.
Throughout the month of September, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Transit Police Bureau will continue to conduct strategic enforcement at various grade crossing throughout the corridor. The Transit Police Bureau developed the High-Intensity Strategic Enforcement Program (HISEP) to target locations where people may engage in unsafe behavior, such as trespassing along the rail line and walking around lowered gates at stations or grade crossings.
The Sheriff’s Office Transit Police Bureau is committed to its role as a safety advocate. Officers will continue raising public awareness in an effort to end tragic collisions, fatalities and injuries at grade crossing and on the right-of-way.
In addition, Caltrain has created a new series of rail safety public service announcements entitled Caltrain Safe w/ Kari Byron. The videos feature former MythBusters host and Bay Area native, Kari Byron, who is also hosting the upcoming educational travel series, Crash Test World.
To be a part of the conversation during Rail Safety Month, passengers and local residents can pick a favorite safety tip and share it on social media with #CaltrainSafe.
Examples of tips:
- If you encounter an emergency on Caltrain or see something suspicious, call the Transit Police at 1.877.SAF.RAIL (1.877.723.7245).
- A typical Caltrain train can take nearly a mile to stop, even when emergency brakes are applied.
- It is never safe to stop closer than 15 feet from the rails, and a train is at least three feet wider than tracks on both sides.
- Only cross Caltrain tracks at designated crossings when it is safe to do so. While it might not be the quickest route, it is the safest.
For more information, visit www.caltrain.com/railsafety.
About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with limited commute service to Gilroy. While the Joint Powers Board assumed operating responsibilities for the service in 1992, the railroad celebrated 150 years of continuous passenger service in 2014. Planning for the next 150 years of Peninsula rail service, Caltrain is on pace to electrify the corridor, reduce diesel emissions by 97 percent by 2040 and add more service to more stations.
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