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, railyards 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 any place. CapMetro wants everyone to be safe while taking transit, driving, walking or riding scooters or bikes.

Data from the National Safety Council shows that Texas roads have become more lethal with a 15 percent increase in deaths from 2020 to 2021 and an even larger 25 percent 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 mid-block.  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.


Transit & Health in Black Communities

Throughout our time talking about Project Connect, we’ve been clear that an investment in transit is an investment in equity.

What we mean by that is that public transportation ridership is heavily weighted toward low-income communities and people of color. And so when we improve our services, those benefits go toward the people who need them the most.

In addition, our country’s history has resulted in a landscape tilted against Black communities, who experience worse health outcomes, higher levels of air pollution and lower levels of public services overall. Good access to strong transit can help combat those issues and more.

Some of the most obvious benefits of transit are financial. It’s expensive to own, operate and maintain a car after all, and a monthly bus pass costs just $41.25.

Some of those are safety-related. Traveling by public transit is 10 times safer than by car.

Traffic safety also affects health outcomes because people riding transit are in fewer collisions and therefore suffer fewer traffic-related injuries. Transit also brings improvements to the overall health of Black people and other communities of color in a variety of ways:

  • Transit takes cars off the roads, reducing air pollution from vehicles.
  • Transit combines with other active forms of transportation like walking and biking to and from stops or stations, enabling riders to get more exercise.
  • Transit connects people to medical centers, hospitals and doctors’ offices, giving more people access to regular healthcare appointments.
  • Transit increases access to healthier food options as well.

Public transportation can be a great equalizer for all communities and historically has been essential for Black Americans.

CapMetro Celebrates Black History Month

CapMetro honors Black History Month each February and this year’s national theme of Black Health and Wellness hits home particularly as we approach two years of living in a pandemic. 

Artist Dawn Okoro

The national theme lets us focus our thoughts on an issue that’s important for the entire community. It also ensures the entire range of the Black experience is recognized and celebrated as the years go by. 

This year, CapMetro is bringing our focus to Black History Month through a bus wrap featuring the work of local artist Dawn Okoro, whose paintings examine standards of beauty and the use of commercial imagery to influence what we desire. Okoro says that her work embodies space, movement, pattern, design, texture and color; and she’s also talked about how creating – doing the work of an artist – is an important part of her wellness journey. 

The bus featuring her work will be on the streets throughout February. Check it out! 

Our collaboration with Okoro was facilitated by our partnership with the George Washington Carver Museum, an Austin institution that has celebrated African American life in Austin for more than 40 years. The Carver Museum has art galleries, classrooms, a dance studio and theater. Its network of artists, creators of all types and community leaders makes it an indispensable force for good. Follow the Carver Museum on Instagram to view their programming throughout February to celebrate Black History Month.  

Throughout the month we’ll highlight different aspects of Black life, Black history and Black health and wellness. We’ll point to those in our community doing good, like Okoro and the folks at the African American Youth Harvest Foundation, which provides community services for underserved kids and their families. The foundation focuses on mentoring programs and the effects of behavioral health issues on its community. 

We also want to take the opportunity to share a new resource for Black Austin culture and news: the podcast Black Austin Matters from KUT. The first couple of episodes feature interviews with community leaders Chas Moore of the Austin Justice Coalition and Wilhelmina and Exalton Delco. 

CapMetro is excited for you to see the bus featuring Okoro’s artwork in the community and what else we have in store for Black History Month 2022. Watch this space.