I recently saw this Australian train safety ad – it seems relevant, considering the events of last week.
I really think we need a much bigger safety outreach to the public – you can recert operators on safety training every year until you’re blue in the face, but when so much of the general public is running red lights in front of trains (and buses) in their cars or on their bicycles, pedestrians not looking both ways before crossing the tracks or pushing their baby strollers in front of moving trains, people sitting or standing or otherwise trespassing in the right-of-way, and on and on and on, that really puts an upper limit on how safe the system can be, regardless of what an operator does.
And honestly, that’s one of the areas where I think TriMet’s safety committee fell short – that safety-focus came together after 5 pedestrians were struck in a crosswalk by a turning bus. Unfortunately, that happened when the victims were doing everything right: they were in a clearly marked crosswalk at an intersection and they had a walk sign. But most of TriMet’s collisions and near misses happen when pedestrians or vehicles disobey traffic signals, so focusing solely on what we can do to make operators safer misses the mark that we need the public to be responsible for their own safety as well. On one hand I can understand why that wasn’t a main focus of the safety committee because it would’ve sounded like victim-blaming in the Sandi Day incident. However if safety is going to be a “value, not just a priority” moving forward, we need to make sure the public carries their share of behaving safely – it is not all on the operators’ shoulders.
So I’ve been looking at how other agencies (and sometimes countries) handle the issue of rail safety. Most of what’s out there focuses on heavy rail, but the same principles still apply. I really like this ad, from Long Island Metro North railroad, both for the imagery and the dialogue:
And yes, that’s happened here.
Australia seems to have a lot of ads and tv specials about safety around train crossings. This is another good one.
Here’s an excellent British radio ad that effectively makes it’s point.
Our trains are lighter and slower than that, but a MAX train can still kill you at 10mph.
Then with trains vs vehicles – our trains aren’t as heavy as freight trains, but they’ll still do a good bit of damage against a smaller vehicle. Here’s a news clip of an 18-wheeler in the path of a train:
Tractor trailer vs. train (spoiler alert – train wins)
And one more collision video, for good measure, since I see people gridlocking rail intersections with their back ends hanging within the train’s dynamic envelope (not necessarily over the rails themselves, but in the space that a train will take up that extends beyond the rails) all. the. time.
Elsewhere, Metro Light Rail in Phoenix (the CEO of which is a former TriMet director) has a really good active safety campaign – and okay, maybe the video is a little on the hokey side, but it says things that need to be said to the public. I especially like the bulleted safety tip lists for cars, cyclists, pedestrians, and parents, and that they describe the page as “an overview of light rail safety and your responsibilities“. Most collisions with rail are preventable, and it’s not the operator who can do the preventing in the majority of the ones I’ve seen.
It’s not that TriMet doesn’t have any safety materials – there is a section of the website where schoolteachers can download safety posters, and there is a 15-second unpublished MAX safety ad on Youtube. Which is a start, but I think a lot more can be done, and needs to be done.