Long overdue, but will it save lives at dangerous area railroad crossings? Time will tell.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced it is partnering with Waze to improve safety at railroad crossings of Metro-North commuter railroad and Long Island Rail Road.
“Safety is a core value at the MTA and its commuter railroads -- for our customers and our employees -- as well as for those in the communities we serve," MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said.
This is the first feature of its kind to debut on the app and is tied to an ongoing collaboration with Waze as part of the Connected Citizens Program – a free, two-way data share of publicly available traffic information. Metro-North said it is working closely with Waze, in efforts to develop a similar partnership in New York and Connecticut, did not say when it would activate the app for railroad crossings.
“At Metro-North, we are dedicated to ensuring the safety of our customers, nothing is more important,” Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi of Westchester said. “Metro-North’s plans to partner with Waze is one component of the railroad’s on-going effort to enhance safety. . . . TRACKS, a free community outreach rail safety education program for students, pedestrians, drivers and train riders throughout Metro-North – has reached more than 191,000 people since 2016.”
MTA Police said they aim to continue an aggressive campaign to combat potentially life-threatening incidents by patrolling near railroad rights-of-way.
On Thursday, June 7, as part of the 10th International Level Crossing Awareness Day, Waze began to integrate a railroad crossing warning to alert users at a set of 10 pilot locations across Long Island. The pilot rollout will begin continue until all 296 LIRR grade crossings are live on the Waze app.
The safety issue at grade crossings continues to be a growing problem as distracted or confused motorists, some using GPS devices, inadvertently turn onto tracks instead of parallel roadways. Metro-North's deadliest railroad-car crash occurred on Feb. 3, 2015 in Valhalla, killing an Edgemont motorist and five commuters from Danbury, Bedford Hills and New Castle.
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Last year, Metro-North reported 26 incidents of motor vehicles on tracks; Through May 29 this year, there have been 7 such incidents. Last year, and through May 29 this year, Metro-North recorded two grade crossing accidents per year.
The LIRR in 2017 recorded 29 reports of cars on tracks, in addition to 17 grade crossing accidents involving the LIRR and motor vehicles. This year, through May 22, there have been two grade crossing accidents and 21 reports of cars on Long Island railroad tracks.
Each year, LIRR and Metro-North participates in the International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD), and joins Operation Lifesaver along with MTA Police and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), New York State Department of Transportation Public Transportation Safety Board to remind motorists of the importance of adhering to traffic laws – especially near railroad grade crossings.
During Thursday morning's commuter rush hours, the above agencies staffed grade crossing locations across Long Island and the Hudson Valley/Connecticut to provide safety information to motorists, pedestrians and our customers of important safety habits, including:
- Nanuet, NY at New Clarkstown Road
- Katonah, NY at Jay Street
- Brewster, NY at Brewster Highway
- Patterson, NY at Route 311
- Redding, CT at Topstone Road
- New Canaan, CT at Talmadge Hill
- Norwalk, CT at Science Road
The MTA also offers free safety education programs for schools and community groups in in the regions served by the LIRR and Metro-North, and is open to people of all ages. For details, email email@example.com for the Long Island Rail Road’s program or MNRTracks@mnr.org for Metro-North’s, or call 511.
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