Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Safety reminder

While I was waiting for the train this morning, I observed a situation which could easily have resulted in someone being killed.

The Northbound #231 train was approaching the Santa Clara station. Because of its design, passengers for Northbound trains must cross the Southbound track in order to board the train. To mitigate this, Caltrain has a "hold-out" rule that forbids more than one train from passing through the station at one time, plus they tell the passengers to always wait on the far platform until the train they intend to board has arrived.

There is a southbound express train that rolls through Santa Clara shortly before the 231 is scheduled to arrive. This morning, it was running late.

So looking to the right from the platform, everyone could plainly see the 231 train approaching to arrival. If you didn't also look to the left, you would not, however, have seen that Southbound express also approaching.

Now, only one train can come through at a time, so the two trains get on the radio and decide who's going to go first. This morning, the 231 decided they would hold-out, probably because the other train was late and wasn't going to stop in any event.

So if you weren't careful, you'd have looked to the right, seen the 231 train approaching, not noticed it was actually stopping short of the station. You then might have stepped onto the Southbound track to cross over to the other platform and disappeared in a puff of pink fog as the Southbound express roared through at 79 mi/hr.

Now, to be fair, CalTrain is actually as we speak retrofitting the station with a tunnel so that no passenger will ever need to set foot on an active railroad track ever again. And 6 or so months from now when they're done, that'll be a good thing. And the construction has actually improved the sight-lines to the North, which is the predominant danger.

But in the meantime, if you use that station, please, please be careful. The rest of us don't need to have our morning commute fouled up by having to wait for the coroner to mop you up. I get to make that joke, because it nearly happened to me.

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