September is Rail Safety Month. On Thursday, September 12, Metrolink hosted rail safety and security leaders for the first Metrolink Safety Summit at the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles. Topics for the summit included crossing safety, quiet zone implementation and Positive Train Control (PTC).
A 2018 study by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) ranked Los Angeles County number one for train strikes against persons nationally, while San Bernardino and Riverside counties were ranked third and seventh respectively. Since 2016, Metrolink and all the rail operators servicing Southern California have noticed a spike in train collisions against persons and vehicles. In fiscal year 2016-2017 there were a total of 35 strikes, rising to 58 the following year and 74 last year.
“We are fortunate enough to be joined by industry leaders, public transportation executives and staff, our regulators, our elected leaders, our consultants, law enforcement, mental health providers and many more. When we work together, we achieve the highest levels of rail safety,” said Brian Humphrey, Chair of Metrolink’s Board of Directors.
The summit began with opening speeches by Humphrey, Metrolink CEO Stephanie Wiggins, NBC4 Chief Political Reporter Conan Nolan and the Honorable Jennifer Homendy. Following this, there were several breakout sessions before the summit concluded with a PTC Simulator Tour at L.A. Union Station.
Each session featured moderators and panelists of vast experience and safety leadership including leaders from American Public Transportation Association, Pacific Railway Enterprises, Inc., HNTB, RailPros, Inc., Didi Hirsch, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Metra, California Operation Lifesaver, Amtrak, BNSF, Transportation Technology Center, Inc., Union Pacific Railroad, City of Riverside, FRA, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, CPUC and several current and former members of Metrolink’s Board of Directors.
Panels for the Metrolink Safety Summit included:
- Grade Crossing and Right-of Way Safety
- A Discussion on Mental Health and Rail Safety
- Building and Maintaining a Safety Culture
- PTC Now and into the Future
- Quiet Zone Implementation
During his opening remarks, Humphrey took a moment of silence in remembrance of the historic Chatsworth collision of 2008. He then invited all rail employees to pledge themselves to safety. “Change alone is not enough…Your foundation is safety in each and every thing you do,” he said.
“I rest easy knowing our riders and employees are served by a rail system with lifesaving technology, but that is not enough,” said Wiggins during her opening remarks.
Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), gave a passionate keynote speech about her history with rail safety improvements. Regarding incident responsiveness, she said, “What I can promise is we will find out what happened. We will find out how it happened. And we will find out what safety improvements are needed to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
For 15 years, Homendy served as the Democratic Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, which is under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I Committee) of the United States House of Representatives. She then took the oath of office as the 44th Member of the NTSB on August 20, 2018.