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The national increase in transit ridership is resulting in an increased risk of incidents involving drivers and pedestrians at grade crossings and along mixed-use rights of way, Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) President and Chief Executive Officer Joyce Rose told attendees of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Rail Conference earlier this week."We are seeing the same dangerous driver and pedestrian behaviors interacting in the transit environment that we have seen for years on the general railway system," said Rose in a statement issued after making her remarks at the conference, which was held in Philadelphia.People are listening to music or texting on their phones, and are walking off train platforms, she said."Confused drivers are colliding with light-rail trains by making illegal or improper turns at red lights or encroaching on rail rights-of-way and driving on the tracks," said Rose.In addition, too many drivers think they can "beat the train" by attempting short cuts across the platform or to retrieve an item that falls onto the rails, she added.In 2012, the number of transit rider trips reached a record 10.5 billion; almost half those trips, or 4.7 billion, were on transit-rail systems. Amtrak ridership reached 31.2 million riders last year, also a record. Meanwhile, the Federal Transit Administration is funding the construction of 17 new transit-rail systems and 14 more projects are in the funding pipeline under this year's federal budget, said Rose. As these projects are completed, there are safety risks in the service areas that need to be proactively addressed, she said.In recent years, OLI has expanded its rail safety-education message to transit to help reduce injuries and deaths at crossings and along rights of way. OLI has been spreading its safety message in the freight-rail realm for the past 40 years."In the public transportation world, the whole point is to encourage ridership and use of the system," said Rose. "We just want your journey to be safe, whether you are a transit user or not."
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