The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which owns and operates Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay Area, approved a proclamation for Railroad Safety Month at its monthly board meeting. The proclamation was accepted by Vic Ryerson on behalf of Operation Lifesaver, an internationally renowned program promoting rail safety.
Caltrain addresses safety through a comprehensive program focused 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. The presentation includes a short video and a question and answer period and can be tailored to groups of all ages.
Just as education is a key component of Caltrain’s rail safety program, so is enforcement.
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.
The Transit Police use a High-Intensity Safety Enforcement Program 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.
Transit Police deputies also have received Crisis Intervention Training, which educates deputies to recognize people who may be a threat to themselves or others in the vicinity of Caltrain’s railroad. As a result of this training, 13 people have been removed from the right-of way and referred to treatment this year.
Caltrain’s commitment to improving safety on the railroad includes investing millions of dollars in engineering projects.
In 2006, Caltrain began a multi-year project to fence one side of the entire right-of-way. Since then, nearly 60,000 linear feet of fencing at a cost of $4 million has been installed along the Caltrain right-of-way.
One of Caltrain’s most important safety efforts has been to reconfigure older stations with narrow center-boarding platforms. Due to safety concerns, only one train can enter these stations at a time. Other trains must “hold out,” or wait outside the station when another train is in or passing through the station.
A multi-million project, which will be completed this year, will eliminate the “hold-out” rule at the Santa Clara station. The modernization project adds a new outboard northbound platform and extends the southern platform 150 feet. A new pedestrian underpass will connect the two platforms which will improve safety for pedestrians at the station.
The $147 million San Bruno Grade Separation Project will elevate the Caltrain tracks above three existing at-grade street crossings at San Bruno, San Mateo and Angus avenues. The project also includes three pedestrian underpasses, one in the vicinity of Sylvan Avenue, one at the new station and another between Euclid Avenue and Walnut Street, which will improve safety for pedestrians.
As part of an effort to prevent suicides on the railroad tracks, Caltrain is participating in a nation-wide study to determine the effectiveness of suicide prevention signs. Last year 250 signs which display a hotline number were installed on a 10-mile stretch between Menlo Park and Mountain View. Calls to the hotline have been tracked and will be analyzed along with data collected from two other railroads on the East Coast. The results of the study will be released later this year.