For most people living and working along the Peninsula rail corridor, the sight of a nearly two story tall, one million pound train is common place. But complacency around a heavy commuter train that takes more than a half-mile to stop could lead to tragedy. To highlight the importance of safety around trains, the Caltrain Board today adopted a proclamation for Railroad Safety Month.
The agency addresses safety through a comprehensive, ongoing program that focuses on the “three E’s of railroad safety” - education, enforcement and engineering.
As an active member of Operation Lifesaver, Caltrain offers a free education program for community organizations, schools and businesses on the Peninsula highlighting safe practices to keep in mind when near the tracks.
The Transit Police Bureau, a dedicated unit of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, is responsible for policing Caltrain property, including stations, parking lots and the railroad right of way. Transit Police deputies have received Crisis Intervention Training, which educates deputies to recognize people who may be a threat to themselves or others near the railroad. Over the past decade, Transit Police staff have stopped dozens of individuals from placing themselves in harm’s way by safely removing them from the tracks.
Most fatalities along the rail corridor are the result of suicide. Although suicides on the Caltrain right of way make up only 3 percent of all the deaths caused by suicide in the area served by the railroad, they are the focus of public attention because they impact so many people. Caltrain partners with regional and national suicide prevention organizations to provide outreach and education.
These tragic events impact not only on the friends and family of the deceased, but also employees, passengers on the trains and the local community. This year, a team of San Mateo County Transit District employees, who also manage Caltrain, raised more than $12,000 in the Out of the Darkness Overnight. The team joined more than 2,000 people in the 18-mile walk in San Francisco to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“Caltrain continues to be a strong partner to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in the Bay Area and has consistently undertaken to raise awareness and show the communities that it serves just how important suicide prevention is to all of us,” said Valerie Kovacovich, AFSP Area Director. “AFSP commends Caltrain for its longstanding and continued efforts to help prevent suicide in Bay Area communities.”
In addition, Caltrain has invested millions of dollars in engineering projects that improve safety on the railroad.
As part of a multi-year program to fence one side of its 50-mile right of way, Caltrain installed an additional 8,000 feet of fencing this year at a cost of $500,000.
The modernization of the Santa Clara station was completed in January. The multi-million project included a new outside boarding platform and a pedestrian underpass, which improves safety for pedestrians at the station.
The $147 million San Bruno Grade Separation Project is at the half-way point. The project will elevate the Caltrain tracks and the station above three at-grade street crossings and also includes three pedestrian underpasses.
Caltrain’s commitment to safety extends far beyond September, with a year-round, day-in, day-out emphasis on safety around trains and train tracks.