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Operation Lifesaver Grants Strengthen Agencies' Programs

Most of the fatalities that occur on public transit properties are due to ­incidents on platforms, people or bicyclists trespassing near tracks and collisions at crossings—accounting for 71 percent of such incidents in 2012, according to the National Transit Database.

Even the best-trained public transit employee cannot change the laws of physics: Depending on the type of vehicle, it can take a passenger rail train anywhere from 600 feet (two football fields) to a mile (that’s 18 football fields) to come to a stop after the operator applies the brakes.

“These startling facts show how critical it is that people are educated and empowered to keep themselves safe when interacting with transit tracks and trains,” said Joyce Rose, president, Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI), the nation’s rail safety education organization and longtime APTA partner. “Working with Operation Lifesaver, transit agencies across the country are making important strides in educating the public and raising awareness about how to stay safe.”

Much of that collaboration is facilitated through OLI’s public transit safety education grants, an annual program the organization conducts in partnership with FTA. The 2015 grant application deadline is Aug. 31.

OLI offers grants to transit agencies, local governments and Operation Lifesaver state programs to support safety education and awareness campaigns tailored to their specific rail transit systems and target populations.

Last year, OLI awarded $162,500 on a competitive basis to 11 public transit agencies; in 2013, it awarded $190,000 to eight agencies.

The following vignettes represent a sampling of recent successful campaigns.

2014 Grantees
Chicago’s Metra commuter rail and New Jersey Transit Corporation used Operation Lifesaver’s national “See Tracks? Think Train!” campaign materials to conduct public safety outreach initiatives. The materials include train banners, highway billboards, digital ­signage, ticket pouches and social media tools.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) conducted a safety campaign using OLI’s “See Tracks? Think Train!” materials that targeted the homeless p­opulation in Dallas and surrounding areas through an innovative partnership between the agency and social service organizations.

DART activities included conducting safety presentations, distributing rail safety-themed merchandise to homeless individuals and families and incorporating rail safety messages in the Dallas County directory of services for them.

Utah Transit Authority conducted safety campaigns emphasizing direct outreach to communities and community centers near its Sugar House Streetcar line.

St. Louis Metro targeted its safety messages to people crossing train tracks at locations other than designated crossings. The agency displayed safety messages at stations and on trains and buses to increase visibility among drivers and pedestrians. The agency saw a 38 percent reduction in trespassing occurrences as reported by operators between February and April 2015—the ­campaign’s duration—compared to the same time in 2014.

2013 Grantees
Portland’s TriMet launched a campaign targeted at millennial males and distracted behaviors, with slogans such as “Don’t let LOL become DOA” and “Don’t let your smartphone make you stupid.” Campaign elements included ads on train bulkheads, buses, shelters, restrooms, online, TV and radio.

One of the most powerful—and attention-getting—campaign elements was a video message from Ian Sutherland, a 29-year-old TriMet rider and bicyclist who was hit by a MAX train, who provided a peer-to-peer testimonial of the risks of wearing earbuds and not paying attention to oncoming trains.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Washington, DC, rolled out a safety campaign targeted to schools in the neighborhood of its new DC Streetcar, seeking to raise safety awareness before the streetcar begins revenue operations. DDOT officials spoke at school assemblies and created an educators’ toolkit featuring flyers and activity sheets on “streetcar smarts.”

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority ran an “Eyes Up, Phone Down” campaign aimed at college students who ride the Green Line. The campaign included safety events at Northeastern and Boston universities, radio PSAs on college radio stations, print ads in student newspapers and a Twitter outreach initiative.

For details about the 2015 grant application process and pending deadline, selection criteria and other successful campaigns, click here.

New Jersey Transit Corporation brands a train with Operation Lifesaver’s national “See Tracks? Think Train!” campaign materials.

Photo courtesy of Operation Lifesaver

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