June Safety Month – Rail Safety

Pedestrians, cyclists and scooter riders: Did you know that walking along railroad tracks is trespassing? It’s illegal, but most importantly it is deadly. Railroad tracks and the nearby right of way are private property with access strictly limited to railroad personnel and those who have been granted permission. It may seem harmless, but more than 1,000 people are either killed or injured each year in the United States while trespassing on railroad tracks, yards and other railroad property, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Remember, CapMetro trains are faster and quieter than traditional freight trains, and they are not required to sound their horns at grade crossings in quiet zones. If you’re near the tracks, it’s possible you won’t see, hear or feel a train coming. Be safe and only cross at designated pedestrian crossings.

One more thing – please do not take photos or selfies on or near railroad tracks.

Drivers: To avoid striking a train at a grade crossing, we have some simple tips that save lives.

  1. Any time is train time! Keep in mind that trains move quickly and are a lot closer than you think. Remember to stop, look both ways and listen for a train before crossing.
  2. Don’t try to race the train. The train moves extremely fast and it takes more than a mile for a train to come to a full stop.
  3. Flashing red lights indicate a nearby train from either direction. Don’t cross the tracks until the lights have stopped flashing.
  4. Don’t drive past the lowered gate: It’s illegal and can cause serious accidents.
  5. Never stop on the tracks. Make sure you can cross the tracks safely before driving over them.

June is National Safety Month!

At CapMetro, safety is our core value. The National Safety Council made June national safety month to help us keep each other safe – in the workplace or anyplace. CapMetro wants everyone to be safe while taking transit, driving, walking and riding scooters or bikes.

Data from the National Safety Council shows that Texas roads have become more lethal with a 15% increase in deaths from 2020 to 2021 and an even larger 25% increase in deaths when you compare it to 2019. As more people return to the roads, it’s even more important to practice safe driving.

Pedestrians: Remember to always use the crosswalk. Crossing the street in the middle of the block (without a pedestrian beacon) is illegal, but most of all it’s dangerous. Crosswalks provide you an extra level of protection because drivers expect to see pedestrians at crosswalks but the same is certainly not always true midblock.  Do not use your electronic device while crossing a street.

As you walk or exercise outside, pay attention to your surroundings and traffic. Stay alert and put phones away, make sure you can hear potential warnings from drivers or cyclists.

Drivers: Stay alert and on the lookout for pedestrians, people riding bikes or scooters, and CapMetro vehicles. Please slow down and obey speed limits, respect traffic signs and avoid distractions.

Driving while using an electronic device is against the law. If you need to check a route or make a call, do so before driving or pull over to use your phone. More than 3,000 people every year die nationwide in crashes that involve a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

When you approach railroad crossings, be cautious. Stop, look both ways and listen for a train before crossing. Respect flashing red lights, do not drive around the lowered gate and never stop on the tracks. In the case of an emergency at a railroad crossing, call the number on the blue sign located on the signal.

Remember to also stay alert for buses as they stop for passengers.

Cyclists and scooter riders: Wear a helmet and ride with the flow of traffic. Use bike lanes whenever available, and respect traffic signs and signals. Avoid any distractions such as using your phone or listening to music and podcasts. Stay alert for pedestrians and never use a scooter or bike when impaired.


Be Patient and Stay Safe: Vehicle and Pedestrian Rail Safety 

Did you know that, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration, a person or vehicle is struck by a train at a highway rail grade crossing every four hours? Trains can’t stop quickly. A freight train that is traveling 55 miles per hour can take more than a mile to stop, even if an emergency application of the brakes is applied.

 

In 2019, Texas ranked as the state with the most collisions in the U.S. with a total of 251 highway-rail grade crossing collisions. As a result, 31 people lost their lives and 123 were injured. Never try to beat a train! Follow these tips to stay safe and help us reduce the number of incidents at rail crossings:

  • Stop if you see flashing red lights
  • Only cross at a highway-rail grade crossing
  • Only cross if gate arms are up, lights have stopped flashing and bells have stopped ringing

In 2019, the state of Texas also ranked as the state with the second highest pedestrian rail trespassing casualties with a total of 100, out of which 44 lost their lives and 56 resulted in  injuries. If you are walking near a train, remember:

  • Only cross at a designated public crossing. Crossing at any other place is trespassing, illegal and dangerous
  • Never walk around or behind lowered gates at a crossing
  • Only cross if gate arms are up, lights have stopped flashing and bells have stopped ringing
  • Look both ways before crossing tracks

Don’t become part of the statistics. Follow these tips and help us reduce the number of highway-rail grade crossing collisions and trespassing casualties. Remember, be patient and stay safe!

Cap Metro Achieves PTC Milestone

PTC

By Dave Dech, VP of Rail Operations

Capital Metro has been working to put in place a positive train control (PTC) system along the 32-mile MetroRail line. We have now met an important threshold by completing all of the statutory requirements to qualify for an extension to the federally mandated deadline of Dec. 31.

PTC is a technological upgrade of the nation’s rail lines designed to create an additional layer of safety to rail. Congress mandated the improvements back in 2009 and gave rail operators until the end of this year to implement PTC.

The good thing is that Capital Metro has met all of the statutory requirements, which enables us to request the extension. Essentially, that means we’ve demonstrated sufficient progress on the project to convince the government that we’re on our way to full implementation. The Federal Railroad Administration is now reviewing our request, and we expect to receive notice of approval within 90 days. Until then, Capital Metro will continue to operate and continue work on PTC implementation. That means that customers will still occasionally experience disruptions to MetroRail service during this work.

Cap Metro is among many rail operators across the country to request this extension, including Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay area and New Jersey Transit. It allows the agency another two years to fully implement the PTC system, a goal that we are committed to reaching.