On September 20, 2019, at South Station, MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak, MBTA Transit Police Chief Kenneth Green, and others kicked off the beginning of the nation’s third annual Rail Safety Week. Developed by Operation Lifesaver, Inc., a public safety non-profit dedicated to rail safety education, this year’s Rail Safety Week is September 22 – 28, with the MBTA, Keolis Commuter Services, MBTA Transit Police (TPD), and others participating in a series of educational initiatives in support of this safety campaign.
“Safety continues to be the MBTA’s top priority and we’re committed to educational efforts that can help prevent rail and track tragedies,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “As part of Operation Lifesaver’s third annual Rail Safety Week, MBTA staff and our partners will be sharing important rail safety information next week to customers, employees, and more. We hope these efforts will echo the important message that, when you See Tracks, Think Train, so track tragedies and their devastating consequences can be avoided.”
“The goal of Operation Lifesaver is to raise awareness among the general public, ensuring a clear understanding of the dangers to be aware of on or near tracks, trains, and rail property,” said MBTA Transit Police Officer and State Coordinator for Massachusetts Operation Lifesaver Dana DeLorenzo. “The program runs throughout the year with our efforts highlighted during Rail Safety Week. It is my sincere hope that these efforts can help in drastically reducing the number of individuals, families, and employees affected by rail tragedies both here in Massachusetts and throughout the country through this awareness and education campaign. Our mission over the past year was to bring this program to as many youths as possible in the schools, especially in the area of the expanded service down to Foxboro. We had great success and look forward to continuing to bring this message to the public as far and wide as we are able.”
“Now in its third year, Rail Safety Week is an important part of our efforts with the MBTA and other partners to raise awareness about the dangers posed by trespassing on railroad tracks. It is never safe to enter the railroad right-of-way or cross tracks in areas other than designated crossings,” said Keolis General Manager and CEO David Scorey. “Our Keolis Boston teams and employee volunteers dedicate time throughout the year to remind passengers, pedestrians, and motorists of the risks presented by not obeying posted signs or signals at crossings. Please remember that if you ‘see tracks, think train’.”
Every year, 2,100 North Americans are killed or seriously injured when engaging in unsafe behavior around tracks and trains. Many times, individuals on Commuter Rail tracks do not hear a train approaching until it is too late due to a train’s high speed. Even when a Commuter Rail train is not scheduled, there are also freight trains and other services that operate on the Commuter Rail network around the Greater Boston area. Subway trains also operate at high speeds with immediate braking capacity limited in the event of an unexpected individual found to be along the track area. Additionally, incidents have occurred in which motor vehicle drivers attempt to pass through crossings when warning lights are flashing and/or crossing gates are descending across the roadway with devastating results.
The MBTA is committed to ensuring a safe environment for its passengers and employees and recognizes the risks associated with rail travel. “See tracks? Think train” and #StopTrackTragedies are a part of Operation Lifesaver’s educational campaign aimed at informing the public about the severe risks associated with trespassing on rail tracks or not heeding warning signals at railway grade crossings. This year’s Operation Lifesaver campaign will also feature seven videos telling personal stories of those affected by rail crossing or trespassing incidents – including victims, friends, family members, locomotive engineers, and first responders. One video will be released each day through social media during Rail Safety Week with the full campaign able to be viewed at stoptracktragedies.ca and oli.org.
The MBTA Safety Department, Keolis, and TPD have significantly increased the numbers of employees trained in the Operation Lifesaver program in an effort to further spread safety messaging through presentations to schools, civic groups, driver education programs, school bus companies, professional driving schools, trucking companies, and first responders. Massachusetts Operation Lifesaver State Coordinator DeLorenzo also hopes to continue to connect with School Resource Officers throughout the Commonwealth in order to educate youth within these communities of additional rail safety measures.
The MBTA, Keolis, and TPD have partnered with Operation Lifesaver to educate passengers and the public. Throughout the week of September 22 – 28, MBTA customers will be made aware of Rail Safety and Operation Lifesaver messaging via displays on in-station digital panels and signage onboard subways and Commuter Rail trains. With a continued commitment to employee safety, rail safety messaging will also be promoted through continued safety briefings and materials given to MBTA and Keolis staff promoting the importance of situational awareness, adhering to rules of the rights of way, hazard identification, the MBTA Safety Hotline, and the employee injury and assault reporting processes.
Rail Safety Week Events
Rail Safety Week events are also planned throughout the week in various locations (weather pending), staffed by the MBTA, Keolis, TPD, Amtrak, and more:
Sunday, September 22
- No Photos on Tracks: Letter campaign to photography schools on dangers of taking photos on or near train tracks.
Monday, September 23
- Distracted Driving: Communities have been encouraged to increase distracted-driving enforcement, especially near tracks and grade crossings.
Tuesday, September 24
- Law Enforcement Partnerships and the third annual observance of Operation Clear Track: Local, state, federal, and railroad police stationed at railroad grade crossings and trespassing incident locations will hand out safety materials to motorists and pedestrians, and enforce crossing and trespass laws.
Wednesday, September 25
- Crossing Safety: Activities will include outreach to professional drivers and drivers of garbage, cement, and dump trucks with the message that truck-train incidents can have devastating effects on families and communities. The importance of the emergency notification system (ENS) sign at crossings will be highlighted. Massachusetts Association of Public Works representatives will also receive training on ENS.
Thursday, September 26
- Transit and Commuter Safety: Staff will be at stations throughout the MBTA system with materials on how to stay safe as a rail commuter and transit rider.
Friday, September 27
- Trespass Prevention: Staff will be within area communities with information related to preventing trespassing on rail right-of-way areas.
Saturday, September 28
- Trespass Prevention and Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety: Awareness activities will take place in order to educate pedestrians and bicyclists about the dangers posed by trespassing on tracks and how they can stay safe.
To learn more about Operation Lifesaver, visit oli.org. Schools or other organizations that would like to schedule an Operation Lifesaver event should contact Officer DeLorenzo at the MBTA Transit Police at 617-222-1212.