Trespassing along rail rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America and in response, agencies utilize technology and design features to mitigate trespassing and accidents.
TriMet’s Manager of Safety Risk Assessment/Construction Safety Kurt Wilkinson said there are design features that can be looked at to mitigate trespassing along ROW. While there is no “set package” in what should be deployed, he did mention he’s on a Transit Cooperative Research Panel (TCRP) that is charged with overseeing a consultant to conduct an industry-wide investigation with the features and see how people are deploying them to guide agencies to be more standardized.
As for how things are handled at TriMet, he said, “We consider several things along the alignment to understand what we really need to put in place.” He continued, “We look at sightlines of the operating environment and the pedestrian or traffic that we anticipate and put those all into an overall package to see what we actually need to deploy at the site to make it as safe as possible.”
They have developed design criteria and have a table of mitigations and measures and utilize that so as the restrictions in sight lines or other issues along the ROW increase, they deploy the additional needed measures. Some of the factors that play into the selection process include type of intrusion anticipated, type of operating environment, the speed of the train, the sightlines, operating rules and procedures, and the previous trespassing history of the area.
In some instances, they move from a more passive-type system to more active measures. The passive systems may include barriers, channelization, lighting, signage and crossings, while the active measures they utilize include intrusion detection and video analytics.
Wilkinson said it’s important to look at each crossing individually because there are always different characteristics. “They may look similar, in a similar environment, but there may be issues angles or geometry of the crossing compared to the sidewalks, so we really look at them on an individual basis.”
Mary Fetsch, media relations with TriMet, added, “The crews go out and actually walk the alignment to look at what is around each alignment.” Wilkinson said, “We go back and reinvestigate all the time to see what else we can do to the existing system and that under construction.
“We have one major project under construction now and another in design so there is a lot of focus on these crossings from the design effort standpoint and we usually say ‘over-engineered,’ but we put extra conduit and other things in place so if we think we have to come back and add active warning to a place where we didn’t originally or have to install some type of channelization or barriers, … everything is there. We make sure that we do have the option to add some additional treatments if necessary.”
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TriMet is working on an extension, the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, and they are going to be using video analytics and intrusion detection said Wilkinson.
Artificial intelligence learns about typical patterns of behavior and then looks for exceptions. Exceptions can include things such as somebody jumping off a platform onto the tracks, an object thrown on the tracks, a fight breaks out on a platform, or there’s some other type of violent interaction or struggle. BRS Labs Vice President of Strategic Accounts Hobby Wright said, “There can be hundreds of thousands of people milling around on those platforms every day, standing still, pacing around, talking on cell phones, normal behaviors that we’ve learned are normal and we’re not alerting on that but only when these extreme instances happen that affect both safety and security.”
Wilkinson said they haven’t selected the equipment they will use yet because it changes so frequently. “We knew we wanted it about a year ago but we were told by our experts to just hold off and wait because it keeps getting better.”