Friday, June 26, 2009

Trains: Noisy, Well-Lit Killers of the Night

They stalk through our neighbourhoods at all hours of the day and night, horns blaring, lights flashing, doing their best to remain undetected by wayward pedestrians as their multi-tonned cars noisily clatter along iron rails. And suddenly, out of nowhere, in the only place you could possibly find them (on train tracks), they strike!

Check the article at the PE. This really gets my goat. I don't mean to make light of the death of this unfortunate gentleman, but he was not killed by the train, any more than a gunshot victim was killed by the bullet. The fact of the matter is it's pretty easy to avoid being "struck, killed by" a train. They are shiny, noisy and relatively predictable in their motions. If you happen to be on the tracks when the train goes by, you've done something very, very stupid. You are not the victim of the train- you are the victim of your own actions.

Also, when somebody is involved in a railroad accident, they are "killed by the train." When they're in a car accident, they are "killed in the crash" or "die in an accident". Don't believe me? Check out this article by the same reporter, submitted within a minute of the above. Car bias, anyone?

It's attitudes like this that lead to groups like Fix Expo, the organization demanding that LA Metro build the new Expo LRT as a grade-separated line. Building rail in LA is hard enough, and you want to add to that the cost of either tunneling or building aerial work? This group just got the CPUC to reject an at-grade crossing design at a high school, for the safety of "the children" (Won't somebody think of the children?!). Sorry. If it was an elementary school, then maybe I'd buy it, but teenagers really ought to be smart enough NOT TO RUN IN FRONT OF A TRAIN.

We really shouldn't have to have quad-crossing gates either. It makes no sense to waste all that money on gates that are designed to prevent what anyone with a brain in their head wouldn't be doing anyway. (Of course, they do help out in that car-train collisions waste commuters' time.) Rail safety is a no-brainer, guys. When a train is coming, as signified by the ample audible and visual warning cues at every single point where you might encounter one, MOVE OUT OF THE WAY.

As an aside, I'm thinking about conducting a large study of press attitudes towards trains vs. cars. Seems like there's something scholarly and meaty here.

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