NJ Transit implements safety updates
James Simpson, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, announced Wednesday a number of new safety regulations intended to reduce accidental deaths along the state’s railroad tracks.
The initiatives will build on already existing safety programs and follow the findings of a Safety Along Railroads Leadership Oversight Committee.
The committee was formed after two accidents — one in Wayne, N.J. on Oct. 2 and another in Garfield, N.J. on Oct. 3 — which claimed the lives of three teenagers and injured a fourth, according to the release.
“Nothing at NJDOT or N.J. Transit matches the importance of safeguarding the lives of those who use New Jersey’s extensive, multi-modal transportation system,” Simpson said in a press release.
The report, which revolves around three complementary spheres — engineering, education and enforcement — represents three months of work and recommends 12 high-priority items to be carried out, or at least started, within a year.
“We dedicate the efforts that will spring from this safety initiative to all who have endured tragedy along our railroads and to all who we will protect in the future,” Simpson said.
Among the engineering recommendations is a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of gate skirts and “second train coming” warning signs, according to the report.
NJDOT and N.J. Transit will also deploy “dynamic message signs” at high-risk crossing locations to remind pedestrians the importance of safety.
N.J. Transit has begun to revise its Rail School Safety Program, which will include accounts from police officers and train engineers who have experience in dealing with pedestrian-related accidents on the railway system. The program plans to adjust the contents of the accounts based on grade and maturity level.
In addition to information and warnings for pedestrians, N.J. Transit police will patrol high-risk locations, to enforce the laws prohibiting ducking under gates and other illegal or potentially dangerous actions, according to the report.
“Our collective efforts will build upon N.J. Transit’s extensive safety programs and will help create a safer future for our customers, our employees and for all N.J. residents and visitors,” said N.J. Transit Executive Director James Weinstein.
Eric Francisco, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he felt safe — even before the new regulations — on his commute from Edison to New Brunswick.
“I’ve always felt safe before this and I’m going to after this, and I don’t think safety should be focused on this. I think safety should be about walking around the train stations late at night,” Francisco said.
He said unsafe crossings are a problem, but that should not be the case. Educational programs should be the focus of these reforms rather than warning signs that could be easily disregarded by pedestrians.
“Education is necessary,” Francisco said. “Telling kids not to do it instead of barricading it and telling them, ‘Don’t go there’ — just tell them not to do it in the first place.”
Kanak Verma, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said she agreed with the revisions to the existing safety norms.
“I think it’s a good idea because it’s there only to protect,” she said. “If they can think of other policies that don’t get in the way of how frequently the train comes or how convenient it is and they improve the safety, then it’s a good idea.”
Asim Alvi, a School of Engineering sophomore, said he does not think that old regulations were insufficient, but if incidents occurred, NJDOTS and N.J. Transit implemented reforms.
“I would hope most people have the common sense not to cross [the tracks],” he said. “We might as well implement this for those who don’t have the common sense to not to.”
The committee that issued the report was comprised of dozens of federal and state officials and other stakeholders, according to the press release. High-priority action items will go into effect within the year — some sooner — while others may take longer, according to the release.