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Rail News Home Passenger Rail

7/16/2001



Rail News: Passenger Rail

Caltrain considers safety blitz success


People would never think of running across a busy freeway and they’d never consider jogging along an airport runway. But railroad rights of way still attract scores of people — whether as a shortcut or running path, or to watch trains or play daredevil games.



If the location’s danger doesn’t convince them to stay away, Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain) hopes increased police patrols with a hefty fine might.



The agency July 13 completed a four-day safety blitz, which included coordination between local police and sheriff’s departments, and Amtrak Police Department (under contract to Caltrain) using squad cars, foot patrols, newly launched Amtrak/Caltrain bike patrols and an Amtrak helicopter on loan.



Caltrain considers the blitz a success: The combined forces issued 248 citations (about 150 are issued in a year’s time) and made four arrests, says Caltrain Vice Chair Mike Nevin, adding that the blitz generated significant media coverage and, hopefully, got the "No Trespassing" message out.



"The bad news is there’re that many citations," he says. "That means there’re way too many people on our tracks."



Along Caltrain’s San Francisco-to-San Jose 50-mile route, eight people already have been killed this year — 49 total have died in the past several years.



"The engineers tell us what a trauma this is for them," says Nevin. "They see it coming and have to watch it happen."



Engineers also had a critical role — and a proactive one — in the safety blitz. If they witnessed people trespassing on Caltrain’s property, they would radio Amtrak’s bike patrol. The bike police would work in concert with the local police to reach the trespassers and cite them.



The first-offence fine is $250, jumping to $1,000 with a second citation. If someone were to be caught a third time, he or she likely would have to appear in court, and maybe be subject to arrest, says Nevin.



Just because the four-day advertised blitz is over and the helicopter has returned to the East Coast, Californians shouldn’t think the tracks are "safe" to enter again.



"We’ve got to do these efforts until we put a stop to this," says Nevin, adding that the increased enforcement, and foot and bike patrols will continue as a standard operation.



Kathi Kube


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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