September is California Rail Safety month and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is reaching out to communities bordering the rail system to remind everyone that “safety begins with you.”

According to Metro, there have been four significant safety issues with the Santa Monica stretch of the Expo line since opening day on May 20, 2016. A car violated right of way rules and hit a train at Colorado/11th on Aug. 29 2016, a pedestrian ran into the side of a train at the 17th Street station on Sept. 13, 2016 (but did not receive life-threatening injuries), a car fled the scene after making an illegal left turn into a train on July 13 of this year and a car made an illegal left turn at Colorado/11th ending up on the tracks but without hitting a train in August.

As part of the outreach month, Metro hold 18 safety awareness events, including one in Santa Monica. Safety officials will be at the Buy Local Health and Fitness Festival at Reed Park, on Saturday, Sept. 9, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

“Metro’s Community Education (MCE) Department goal is to increase awareness of safety through informative and site specific programs that focus on the three E’s of rail safety: education, engineering and enforcement,” said Jose Ubaldo from Metro Media Relations in a statement. “The Transit Safety Program (TSP) is another component of the MCE department and conducts safety presentations at schools within a half-mile radius of sections of the Blue, Expo and Gold lines that run along streets. Additionally, the team conducts safety presentations to senior centers, recreation centers and other community organizations within a 1.5 mile radius of street-running Metro lines.”

Ubaldo said the Expo Line has had very few incidents and the relative lack of problems shows the organization’s outreach efforts are effective.

Metro conducts its own education programs and also partners with local agencies to create a cadre of safety evangelists

“When we’re out there with other local organizations we do a trainer with them so they can speak on our behalf and that’s how we’re getting to the community itself,” said Jennifer Arndt, Metro’s Director of Community Education.

She said Santa Monica had particular education challenges due to its high tourist and homeless populations. To reach the visitor market, the agency is using advertising on digital platforms that can be customized to reach specific markets. While some of the outreach takes the form of traditional adverting on media outlets, they have also experimented with other ideas including buying adds on the Waze navigation app that notified drivers of road restrictions when they crossed train tracks.

Arndt said they have relied on the aid of partner agencies to help inform homeless individuals about train safety.

“We outreached to agencies, with the Santa Monica Police Department, and with other agencies to educate the homeless,” she said. “We went in and did presentations for staff members that dealt with homeless, so they knew what to look for when they were talking to their clients.”

Ubaldo said safety issues are more likely during the early stages of a new line but the ongoing efforts chip away at the problem.
“Little by little, as we implement safety programs, we are reducing those numbers.”

Part of that effort includes working with local schools.

“Metro works directly with our schools in closest proximity to the train tracks,” said Gail Pinsker, SMMUSD’s Community & Public Relations Officer. “They conduct assemblies and have tables at some of our parent nights and events. We are very supportive of their efforts and gladly send out any safety materials on their behalf to our families via email.”

For more information about Metro and their activities, visit metro.net.

editor@smdp.com

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