CHICAGO — Responding to recent deaths of three local youths, Metra is launching its most aggressive public safety effort in its nearly 20-year history, aimed specifically at keeping children safe around railroad property.
"These recent events have deeply saddened all of us here at Metra," Metra Chairman Jeffrey Ladd said. "We are reaching out to everyone in the community — including police officers, educators, parents and the children themselves — asking them to get out the message that railroad safety has to be taken seriously in order to prevent any more tragedies like these. … Railroad tracks are unsafe for pedestrians and should never be used as a path or a shortcut."
For the first part of the train safety blitz, each police agency in the six-county Metra service territory will be contacted and asked to step up their patrols and enforcement around the railroad. Metra is asking local police to remove trespassing youths from railroad property and notify their parents.
Also, school superintendents in the six-county Metra service territory will be contacted and asked to address the topic with students and remind them that railroad tracks should never be used as an alternative or shortcut. Metra is requesting each school host assemblies to show rail safety presentations like Metra’s "Be Smart Be Safe" train safety video for children. In addition, school administrators are being asked to read messages over school address systems during their daily announcements.
Other more aggressive parts of the safety campaign include the placement of 30-second public service announcements on local television stations, full-page ads taken out in newspapers, and informational seat-drops distributed to each rider on all Metra routes – all with the aim of urging parents to reach out to their children about train safety.
"I think it’s important to get the parents and guardians actively involved in relaying the message that Metra, Operation Lifesaver, and all the other railroads have been preaching for years — Look, Listen, and Live," said Phil Pagano, Metra’s executive director.
In the spirit of cooperation, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen — the union representing Metra’s train engineers — has pledged its support for Metra’s latest push to educate the public that railroads are valuable assets to our community that need to be better understood and respected.
Metra provides commuter rail service between the downtown Chicago business district and 224 stations in northeast Illinois communities over 12 routes totaling approximately 500 miles of service territory. Metra operates 700 weekday trains, providing about 300,000 passenger trips.