Members of the Metra Board of Directors and agency officials today hosted a special Metra Safety Train excursion to highlight the numerous ways that Metra strives to operate the safest possible railroad for its customers, employees, local schoolchildren and the public.
The special train operated along the Milwaukee District West Line from Chicago Union Station to Elgin. Metra officials were joined by Illinois State Senator Tom Cullerton, State Representative Marcus Evans, Elgin Mayor David Kaptain and Park Ridge Deputy Police Chief Lou Jogmen, who also serves as the chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee for the Illinois State Police.
“To put it simply, safety is our number one priority – it is deeply ingrained in the Metra culture and it influences everything we do,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “The safety train is an example of the outreach we do to promote a better understanding of all the effort that goes into providing our customers with the safest service at all times.”
Those in attendance listened to a short presentation about Metra’s safety culture and safety initiatives and learned about challenges and capital projects specific to the Milwaukee District West Line. Participants also learned about the challenges of implementing a federally mandated safety system known as Positive Train Control or PTC. PTC is a computerized system that prevents certain types of train-to-train collisions, helps avoid derailments and other accidents caused by excessive speed and increases safety for workers. It is new technology that is extremely complicated and very expensive – the most recent cost estimate for Metra to implement PTC is between $350 million and $400 million.
Safety train participants also heard about Metra’s Safety Poster and Essay Contest, now finishing its 11th year. The contest asks schoolchildren from the six-county Chicago area to submit posters and essays about a railroad safety-related theme. This year’s theme, “Keep Yourself(ies) Safe” called attention to the need to eliminate distractions when around tracks and trains. The winners, selected from more than 2,000 participants representing 194 area schools, were honored at the June 21 Metra Board of Directors meeting.
Metra’s other safety initiatives include:
Operation Lifesaver is a national rail safety education program designed to promote railroad safety and awareness for children and adults. Metra has two Operation Lifesaver presenters who educate the public about the dangers of trespassing along the railroad right-of-way and disobeying grade-crossing warning devices. Metra’s Operation Lifesaver presenters travel throughout our six-county service area, providing nearly 1,000 presentations annually at schools, bus companies, public utilities, police and fire departments and trucking companies.
Our Operation Lifesaver teams – made up of presenters, representatives of Metra’s Safety Department and Metra police officers – carry out about 50 “safety blitzes” each year at train stations throughout the Metra system. During the morning rush hour, team members personally engage commuters in conversation, distribute rail safety brochures and reinforce the need for safe behaviors on and around railroad crossings.
The Metra Police Department conducts grade-crossing violation enforcement campaigns at identified trouble spots where pedestrians and motorists are reportedly violating grade-crossing warning devices. These campaigns are also conducted in conjunction with local municipal police.
Signs are posted at most rail grade crossings that caution pedestrians to never stop on tracks. The signs also list a toll-free hotline (877-FIX-GATE) that pedestrians and motorists can call to report grade-crossing signal malfunctions for prompt handling.
Confidential Close Call Reporting System
In 2016, Metra became the first commuter railroad in the United States in which every labor union agreed to participate in a “Confidential Close Call Reporting System,” known as C3RS. The idea behind C3RS is simple: create a culture in which Metra workers can anonymously report safety concerns or “close calls” without fear of discipline, so the agency can identify those concerns, learn from mistakes and solve problems before an accident happens.