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CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION ENHANCES SAFETY ALONG NEW JERSEY'S RAIL SYSTEM

June 27, 2013

NEWARK, NJ — In honor of National Safety Month, New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman James Simpson today joined NJ TRANSIT Executive Director James Weinstein at Trenton Transit Center to highlight NJDOT and NJ TRANSIT’s collaborative efforts to promote safety and reduce accidental deaths along the State’s busy railroad tracks.  These efforts have succeeded in sharply reducing accidental fatalities across the NJ TRANSIT rail system.

Joining Commissioner Simpson and Executive Director Weinstein in Trenton today was New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez, who highlighted the importance of raising suicide prevention awareness and announced the updating of NJ TRANSIT’s suicide prevention signs and posters to feature the State of New Jersey’s new, 24-hour NJ Hopeline Suicide Prevention Hotline number.

Commissioner Simpson said:  “When the Christie Administration embarked on this mission to prevent accidental deaths along New Jersey’s rail network, we collectively committed to pursuing every available avenue through an approach we call ‘E-cubed’—Engineering, Enforcement and Education—which has been a tremendous success.  The statistics show that these efforts are working—however, since the statistics represent real people, we will continue to dedicate the efforts that have sprung from this safety initiative to all who have endured tragedy along our railroads in the past and to those we will protect in the future.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Commissioner Simpson and the members of the NJ Safety at Railroad Crossings Leadership Oversight Committee, the tactics we have collectively used to enhance rail safety have ultimately saved lives,” said Executive Director Weinstein.  “Through this partnership, we will continue to deliver on our pledge to do everything possible to enhance pedestrian safety and prevent accidental deaths on the NJ TRANSIT system.”

Prior to enactment and implementation of the new “E-Cubed” rail safety tactics, a total of 44 accidental fatalities involving NJ TRANSIT trains were recorded from 2008 to 2011, as follows: 

·         8 in 2008

·         13 in 2009

·         14 in 2010

·         9 in 2011

Since January of 2012, three accidental fatalities (one in 2012 and two so far in 2013) have been recorded involving NJ TRANSIT trains. 

Commissioner Simpson convened the NJ Safety at Railroad Crossings Leadership Oversight Committee in the wake of two separate incidents in October 2011 that claimed the lives of three teenagers on NJ TRANSIT tracks.  The committee is comprised of representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NJ Department of Education, State Police, Motor Vehicle Commission and NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety, NJ TRANSIT Police, NJDOT, NJ TRANSIT and Operation Lifesaver. 

At the direction of Commissioner Simpson, the committee was tasked with developing strategies in the areas of Engineering, Enforcement and Education in order to ramp up safety across the State’s rail network, particularly in areas where trains travel through densely populated neighborhoods, with the goal of reducing overall fatalities and accidents at railroad grade crossings.  The committee published its findings and recommendations in a February 2012 report that contained a range of initiatives designed for quick implementation. 

Since that time, NJ TRANSIT has marked a number of accomplishments in the areas of Engineering, Enforcement and Education, as follows:

Engineering

  • Installation of new signage, fencing and bollards at several stations, grade crossings and along rights of way to direct pedestrian access.
  • Clearing of brush along rights of way to improve visibility for rail engineers.
  • Evaluating data collected by the Federal Railroad Administration’s Volpe Center on new rail safety devices NJ TRANSIT is piloting at two locations:  “Second Train Coming” signs at Plauderville Station and “gate skirts” at Aberdeen-Matawan Station.
  • Working on “Safe Routes to School Program” to apply extra points for projects near an active rail line for selection criteria to give municipalities with K-8 schools near an active rail line the opportunity to apply for federal funding for sidewalk and other pedestrian enhancements.
  • Expansion of NJDOT and NJ TRANSIT Diagnostic Teams to conduct hazard identification and resolution. 

Enforcement

  • Increased visible police presence at key locations, with uniformed and plain-clothed police officers issuing warnings and citations and making arrests.
  • Implementation of a new Trespasser Intrusion Program (T.I.P.), requiring locomotive engineers, train crew members and other field personnel to identify and report patterns of trespasser activity to enable law enforcement officials to respond appropriately.
  • Deployment of Variable Message Signs supplied by NJDOT at 12 priority locations across the rail system that have grade crossings, reminding pedestrians and motorists to “Be Safe, Obey the Gates.”
  • Installation of new bilingual “No Trespassing” signs at strategic locations.

Education

  • Continued outreach to school-age students through NJ TRANSIT’s free Rail Safety Education Program.
  • Re-tooling of the Rail Safety Education Program to include first-person testimony from police officers and train engineers who have been involved in or have responded to trespasser-related incidents on the NJ TRANSIT system.
  • Creation of a new educational video called “It’s Your Choice” that utilized first-person testimony and included surveillance footage of trespassers across the system.
  • Development of new, hard-hitting public service announcements urging people to stay off the tracks, which aired on television and radio outlets in the New York and Philadelphia markets starting in June 2012.
  • Utilization of social media tactics to influence teens and young adults.  
  • Submission to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission of new driver manual and testing materials regarding safety at railroad grade crossings and near rights of way.
  • Training of Transportation Management Association (TMA) members to promote rail safety awareness at local events and municipal meetings statewide.

Suicide Prevention Awareness

Commissioner Jennifer Velez said:  “While NJDOT and NJ TRANSIT have together made great strides in reducing fatalities along New Jersey’s rail network, this new partnership will greatly expand the reach of the new NJ Hopeline suicide prevention hotline to individuals  in need through updated posters and signs at NJ TRANSIT rail stations.” 

Last month, the New Jersey Department of Human Services launched the first statewide suicide hotline call center:  NJHOPELINE (855-654-6735).  The NJ Hopeline, operated by University Behavioral HealthCare at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Through the NJ Hopeline, callers are able to speak to a live, trained professional or volunteer. 

In 2012, 16 of the 17 fatalities involving NJ TRANSIT trains were classified as confirmed or possible suicides.  In 2013, 9 of the 11 fatalities involving NJ TRANSIT trains were classified as confirmed or possible suicides. 

“In addition to NJ TRANSIT’s updated signs and posters, the Department of Human Services has developed a flyer for the NJ Hopeline with a very clear message: Suicide is NOT the Answer,” Commissioner Velez continued.  “By raising suicide prevention awareness and spreading the word about the NJ Hopeline, our goal is to let people know that help is always available.” 

NJ TRANSIT will be installing new posters and signs at all of NJ TRANSIT’s 164 rail stations starting in July.

About NJ TRANSIT

NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 895,000 weekday trips on 261 bus routes, three light rail lines, 12 commuter rail lines and through Access Link paratransit service. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 164 rail stations, 61 light rail stations and more than 19,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.