By Steve Hymon, September 23, 2013
A media event was held at the Blue Line’s Willowbrook station on Monday morning — please see the above video. Here are safety stats we posted last month and below is the news release from Metro:
September is suicide prevention month
Fatal accidents plummet on Metro Blue Line, but suicide rate rising
Elected officials, Metro executives, a Sheriff commander and suicide prevention experts today joined a former Metro train operator in appealing to the public to help stop the rash of suicides on the Metro Blue Line.
Three of the four deaths on the Metro Blue Line in 2013 have been suicides. Last year at this time there were eight deaths on the line including four suicides.
“Light rail trains operate at grade in urban areas throughout the world without the prevalence of suicide we’re experiencing on the Metro Blue Line,” said Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois. “I’m very concerned about this and am appealing to the public to help Metro reverse the trend. We continue to invest in safety improvements couple with education and enforcement of safety laws. And while our rail safety ambassadors and operators have thwarted some suicide attempts, we can’t stop them all.”
Metro can keep upgrading its safety warning devises as much as it needs, but without the public participation accidents and suicides will keep happening.”
Dr. Kita Curry, CEO of the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center speaks at the media event this morning.
The Metro Blue Line opened in July 1990 and is one of the nation’s busiest light rail lines carrying nearly 30 million passengers a year. It spans 22 miles with 22 stations from downtown Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles crisscrossing cities such as Los Angeles, Vernon, Compton, Carson and Long Beach and several unincorporated zones of Los Angeles County.
Metro continues to invest substantial resources to bolster safety by focusing on the three E’s -Engineering, Education and Enforcement. The improvements include installation of special four quadrant gates and swing gates at several high-traffic pedestrian crossings. There are also fences and in-pavement warning lights. Metro will spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next four years to replace track, overhaul the power system, refurbish stations, buy new rail cars and more all along the 22 mile Blue Line alignment.
On the education front, Metro has deployed safety ambassadors – retired bus and rail operators- assigned to spots where accidents have occurred in the past. On the Blue Line 14 ambassadors are stationed at seven key locations in two shifts, Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. They answer questions and warn people about the danger of trying to beat an oncoming train.
Also, Metro began a partnership with the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center to help prevent suicides. Signs with the suicide crisis line (877) 727-4747 had been posted in the stations and the alignment.
The safety ambassadors also watch for potential suicide victims. And so far they have stopped at least three would-be suicides on the Blue Line. As part of the safety campaign, trains are covered with safety messages to warn the public with messages such as “Heads Up! Watch for Trains!”
Besides suicides there is rampant illegal and unsafe behavior by pedestrians and motorists around the Blue Line tracks and stations. Metro recently filmed and took photos of people who routinely ignore the flashing lights, bells, and crossing gates and dash in front of oncoming trains or trespass on the tracks.
Sheriff’s deputies from the Transit Service Bureau have been conducting targeted enforcement at high-risk crossings and today motorcycle officers patrolled an area around the Willowbrook Station ticketing violators.
LA appeals for help with ‘suicide by train’ increase
By Justin Pritchard, September 23, 2013
LOS ANGELES — Alarmed by an increase in suicides on its rail tracks, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is making a rare appeal for the public’s help.
Suicide by train is a touchy topic, with many transit agencies worried about copycats if they talk about it.
But on Monday, LA Metro began focusing on the issue, asking the public to extend help for people who might be contemplating killing themselves — before they make it onto the tracks.
Since the beginning of last year, seven people have thrown themselves in front of trains on the Blue Line, which traverses some of the county’s poorest areas on its 22-mile route between downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Before the recent increase, suicides had averaged one per year since the line opened in 1990, according to Metro spokesman Marc Littman.
“We’ve reached the point where we must appeal to and engage the public” Littman said.
The message included that the suicides have other victims — the drivers who, helplessly, cannot stop their trains on time.
Roman Alarcon was driving his normal Blue Line route when a man stepped onto the tracks between stations. The train was going about 25 mph when it hit him.
“It affected not only his family but others, like law enforcement who responded to the scene and myself. We have to live with this the rest of our lives,” Alarcon said.
That was in 1994. It took Alarcon several months to begin to talk to co-workers about it. Once he became comfortable, he made a point of counseling other drivers who experienced what he did.
It’s hard to judge whether the increase in suicides on this one route is more than an anomaly.
Nationally, suicides in which someone was hit by a subway or light rail train peaked when 74 people killed themselves in 2011, according to federal data. The total dipped back to a more typical 55 people in 2012. New York City subways stand out as the transit system with the most suicides, according to the data.
Metro already has taken steps to decrease suicides, including sending retired bus and train operators to Blue Line stations. Littman said these “safety ambassadors” have stopped three people from killing themselves since December.