I’ve been mulling over a post recently made by Neil McFarlane (General Manager of TriMet) to TriMet employees:
The MAX incident on Friday evening was the first fatality on my watch. We are all saddened, and offer our thoughts and prayers to Ms. Sullivan’s friends and family. This is also what motivates us to continue our safety work apace. There are some new facts, it appeared from video that Ms. Sulllivan reached out to steady herself on a moving train. That resulted in her being spun around and falling into the ‘gap’ between the two coupled cars. We will review the incident fully — but the clear lesson we will be telling our customers is ‘step back’ when a train enters the station. Stay behind the bumpy white strip, and its best to step back even further — first to allow exiting passengers off — but second to provide a little safety buffer. (Initial reports were that a cane tip was stuck between the LRV and platform edge — but the video showed that was not the case). So in your travels as TriMet safety ambassadors (we all are!) — help emphasize — ‘step back’ when the train enters the station. Thanks Neil
I’ve been talking with other operators and reading what non-TriMet people have to say about making it clear when a train is about to move. Over at the Oregonian and on Twitter, some commenters raised the point that the “the doors are closing” announcement sometimes happens long before the train actually moves, which catches some people off guard when the train actually begins moving. I also saw suggestions, such as in the conversation I had with Intersection911, that an audible announcement should be made stating when the train was about to move. Others brought up that we already have something like that, though not in so many words, or really in any words at all:
In each clip, you hear two short bell sounds before the train begins moving forward. This is a requirement no matter where the train is (on the mainline or in the yards, in or out of service).
Regular commuters are probably aware of the two-bell sound indicating that the train is about to move forward even if they haven’t ever given it conscious thought. However this is not promoted to the public, at least as far as I’ve seen, and it really should be. Not everyone on or near MAX trains is from the Portland area or is familiar with how the trains move. But it shouldn’t be difficult for the marketing department to come up with some channel cards to put on the trains (and buses) with a message saying something like “Hear two bells: Watch for moving trains!” Maybe even take out ads in the paper or on TV letting people know to be well away from the tactile strip when they hear two bells since the train is about to move.
Would that have saved Sandy Sullivan’s life? I don’t know, but it just seems like a good idea to take steps like this to be proactive in preventing accidents, and in the interest of being “safety ambassadors” as Neil described. And this is an easy way to do it, since it’s building off of something that rail operators are already doing, and just driving the point home to the public that that’s what those sounds mean.
Random trivia – the two-bell sound is also featured in the beginning of the “Chillaxin on the MAX” song.