Caltrain ads push track safety

You may be in a hurry, but trying to beat a train will ensure that you never arrive at your destination.

That’s the message Caltrain officials hope to instill in Peninsula pedestrians and motorists with a new series of television and radio public service announcements.

The new announcements come following the deaths of five people who were struck by the commuter trains this year.

In 2006, 17 people died on Caltrain tracks — a record number for the transit agency.

The spots are the latest step in the “Don’t Shortcut Life” rail-safety project. The three-year, $7.2 million plan launched in May includes improved pedestrian crossing arms, medians, miles of fencing, ticketing of trespassers and an extensive public information campaign.

The announcements are based on the excuses people use when going around active railroad crossing arms.

“People are in a hurry, they need to pick their kids up, they’re late for work,” said Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg. “They’re focused on getting someplace and not focused on the risk they’re taking.”

Caltrain will premiere the announcements at 7 a.m. Monday at its San Francisco station while staff members pass out rail-safety information to passengers. The spots will run on Comcast cable stations over the next few months, Weinberg said.

After the initial outreach of cable spots, which will cost about $10,000, Caltrain will follow up as funds become available. The audio version of the public service announcements will also be made available to local radio stations, Weinberg said.

Among the deaths this year, an unidentified man was killed while trespassing on the tracks in Palo Alto on July 5. On June 28, 21-year-old Maria Nieblas of Sunnyvale was killed when a train struck her car. Caltrain officials said she disregarded the crossing signal.

Weinberg has said that unsafe shortcuts along the tracks have led victims to their deaths. One other cause is the lack of both grade separations and barriers around the tracks.

Earlier this month, Caltrain stepped up its installation of high-security fencing at trespasser hot spots in its Burlingame and San Bruno stations.

tbarak@examiner.com


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