Train safety videos

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.

9 responses to “Train safety videos

  1. Yikes! Can’t stand to watch them all! Great post.

  2. Could only watch the first two (yikes). Good post!

  3. The Long Island ad is shocking, but certainly sends a clear message. These are all good points, and things we are talking about. The task force talked about education and the need for more outreach so people know their responsibilities around transit. Specifically, they noted that we have a good program for doing safety outreach to communities when new rail projects are being installed, but found that TriMet could be doing more in the areas that have had rail for many years. Out reach to children in schools was highlighted, so that you are building safe habits for the future.

    I think you’ll see more about outreach and education in the near future. Thanks for raising the question and for the thoughts on what other agencies are doing.

    Josh Collins
    TriMet Operations

  4. I believe TriMet was pretty aggressive in doing outreach right before the Yellow Line opened as well as before WES opened by going to schools and some businesses…but it seemed like the safety attention stopped once the presentations were over and the lines were in operation.

    My biggest concern is actually bus stop safety – many of TriMet’s bus stops simply, plainly put – are UNSAFE. It is unsafe to locate a bus stop within an intersection as many bus stops, especially in S.W. Portland (many stops on the 1, 38, 44 and 45 lines in particular!). I had a bus stop where there was simply no way to cross the road safely – the nearest safe crosswalk was a half mile away and involved walking on the side of the road (and over an I-5 overpass) sans sidewalks. Another bus stop I used to use was located on a divided stretch of Highway 99W south of King City where we had to run across the highway on the blind side of a curve. (It does appear the last time I drove out there, TriMet moved the bus stop several hundred feet to the south to improve visibility…but there’s still no crosswalk.)

    Two-thirds of TriMet’s ridership uses the bus…but the safety attention has been directed towards just those riders around the Yellow Line, around WES, and lately it’s been entirely focused only at bicyclists. I’m not sure why TriMet is so concerned about bicyclists – the City and State have that covered. TriMet needs to focus on its riders — and given TriMet’s lack of attention given to the bus stops located at 82nd Avenue at the MAX station (where the City and ODOT completely owned the improvements and TriMet refused to participate – even though the majority of pedestrians in that area were TriMet riders connecting between MAX and the 72 bus!) — TriMet needs to take a new focus on its bus riders – two-thirds of its ridership. What good is promoting safety…when your message is only reached by less than 10% of your overall audience?

    • I want to preface this by saying that I’m not dismissing your comment. The reason why I took the focus of rail safety in this post is that rail is what I generally write about. Since trains can’t swerve like buses can, there are safety concerns around rail crossings and the ROW in general that are unique to trains. Two people were recently hit by MAX trains – one a cyclist who waited for the westbound train to pass but didn’t look east (and rode against a traffic signal) and the other was a person near Prescott but I don’t know the details of what happened there. So two incidents in a short amount of time prompted this post.

      That said, I agree that the number of unsafe and inaccessible bus stops is shameful. I know of at least one operator who sustained injury saving a passenger in a wheelchair from falling off the ramp because the passenger wanted to exit the bus where there was a stop but no sidewalk. No, I don’t know why this is considered acceptable – that a stop is too unsafe to let a person in a wheelchair safely exit a bus; that an operator had to put herself at risk to prevent the passenger from being injured even more seriously; that the stop is (now 2 months later) neither fixed nor apparently even a priority to repair. Though to be fair, with so many unsafe bus stops due to poor lighting, bad visibility, no sidewalk, no crosswalk, etc, how do you prioritize?

      I was glad to see that OPAL was awarded grant money to work toward improving bus stops. It doesn’t look like their work will extend beyond SE Portland, but at least it’s a start. I’d like to see TriMet not abandon the campaign for accessible transit even though the ballot measure didn’t pass, because it still should be a priority. And given how readily the board passed $722 million in resolutions for Milwaukie rail, it seems we’re not quick to shy away from expensive capital project investments. So given our even more laser-focused approach to safety and the board’s willingness to pass resolutions to improve the total transit system, I trust that the logical conclusion is that the safety for passengers using bus stops will remain at the forefront. I look forward to seeing what steps TriMet will be taking in that direction.

      • As I’ve mentioned before, it really isn’t TriMet’s fault that streets lack sidewalks, which are often the building-block base of bus stops. Those streets can be unsafe for non-transit riding pedestrians and others, too.

        • Be that as it may, one of the statements for what the bond measure would have done (directly from the Yes for Transit website) is:

          “Improve access and safety at about 300 bus stops including shelters, sidewalks, curb cuts, lighting and pedestrian crossings”

          So while sidewalks may technically fall under the city of Portland’s (or Gresham, or Beaverton, etc) responsibility, TriMet is interested in at least providing that sort of amenity at a bus stop. I know it doesn’t solve the problem of where is that person in a wheelchair supposed to go once they get to the end of the bus stop’s sidewalk if there’s just a ditch beyond there, but it’s a start.

  5. @Erik H.: One of the issues is that new rail projects have safety outreach to adjacent communities incorporated into the project funding. Once the project is complete, that resource isn’t available so it becomes a challenge to maintain ongoing outreach. This is by no means just a challenge that TriMet faces.

    Josh Collins, TriMet Operations

  6. Brenardo Sanchez

    Jeez, the first Australian one is scary. Sure sends out a strong message.

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