Safety programs and fences aimed at ending train fatalities

Critics say Caltrain could move faster in installing fences in dangerous areas

SAN CARLOS — Nearly six months into a stepped-up campaign to save lives along the tracks, Caltrain has made some progress, visiting a half-dozen classrooms, but is still working to identify locations where fencing is needed along the tracks.

A half-dozen Peninsula cities have identified locations where they would like to see fencing installed along the Caltrain tracks to keep pedestrians out of harms way.

From a crossing in Redwood City near F Street, where an ice cream vendor was killed last month, to South San Francisco, where workers regularly cross from East Grand Avenue to Airport Boulevard, fencing could save lives, officials said. Cities that are asking Caltrain to install fencing where pedestrians frequently cross the tracks illegally include Belmont, Burlingame and San Bruno. San Mateo is still studying the issue, officials there said.

The submission of a list of potential fencing locations is one of the first signs that the agency’s stepped-up safety efforts are beginning to see the light of day, following the death of 13-year-old Fatih Kuc of Burlingame in April Kuc was fatally struck while walking along the tracks on his way home from school after being dropped off at a nearby public bus stop.

The commuter train agency has budgeted $1.5 million for fencing this year and anticipates spending another $3 million in the coming two years, according to Mark Simon, special assistant to Caltrain CEO Mike Scanlon.

Since April, Caltrain has been working to develop criterion for where and when fencing should be installed, but hasn’t yet determined a timeline, Simon said. “We’re attempting to identify places where there is heavy traffic from trespassers, as well as locations where past incidents suggest there is a high degree of trespassing,” Simon said.

In addition to fencing, Caltrain has focused on stricter trespassing enforcement and public education, but the lack of a timeline for fence installation and the fact that only a handful of schools have held safety classes has some critics frustrated. “We’ve got an identifiable hotspot and Burlingame has already paid the ultimate price,” said Gene Condon, Burlingame’s chairman of the Traffic, Safety and Parking Commission.

Track safety has also become something of a priority in Redwood City since 63-year-old Elias Mecina Vazquez was killed Sept. 6, although city officials haven’t demanded fencing, as in Burlingame. “It’san ongoing safety issue we hope Caltrain can address and we’ll work with them,” Redwood City spokesman Malcolm Smith regarding track safety said.

Of particular concern for Condon is the fact that Caltrain has only managed to visit a handful of schools to talk about safety since the school year began. “They shouldn’t wait until June to give everyone safety lessons for crossing the tracks,” Condon said.

Since Sept. 12, Caltrain officials have visited five schools in Burlingame and San Bruno that are located near the train tracks to talk safety with about 1,700 students, Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said. Safety classes with another six schools are to be held in the coming weeks, he said. The fact that only a dozen or so schools have signed up isn’t Caltrain’s fault, Weinberg said. “Letters went out to San Mateo County schools twice,” he said. “[We] can’t force a school to invite us to present rail safety information.”

ecarpenter@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A man holds a sign at a rally to commemorate the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside City Hall on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

School Board member Faauuga Moliga, right, chats with Superintendent Vincent Matthews in between greeting students on the first day of in-person learning at Bret Harte Elementary School on Monday, April 12, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faauuga Moliga named as school board vice president to replace Alison Collins

The San Francisco school board on Tuesday selected board member Fauuga Moliga… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel as work continues at West Portal Station on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s poor track record on capital projects risks losing ‘public trust’

Supervisors say cost overruns and delays could jeapordize future ballot revenue measures

Roger Marenco, president of operators union TWU Local 250-A, speaks at a news conference outside the Muni Kirkland Yard announcing Muni will not be increasing fares on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s union leader encourages riders to say ‘thank you’ to their Muni operators

A conversation with Roger Marenco, president of Transport Workers Union of America, Local 250A

Most Read