The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board of Directors unanimously voted on Thursday in favor of a series of actions meant to improve rail safety in Los Angeles County, according to this NBC News report. These measures include using $5 million from Metro funds to pay for an automatic train stop system to prevent head-on collisions like the catastrophic Metrolink crash this month, which killed 26 and injured more than 135 commuters. The MTA board also aims to get $97 million from the 2006 California approved Trade Corridor Improvement Funds to make rail safety improvements.
MTA board members also reportedly made a series of recommendations to the Metrolink board to improve safety for commuters. Those recommendations include installing automatic train stop technology, doubling up engineers and putting video cameras in locomotives. Metrolink officials have also said that they are looking to install the safety technology even as they wait to get funding for the “positive train control” (PTC) technology, which would have prevented the fatal Chatsworth collision.
Automatic train stop is an older technology, which has been available since the 1940s. It uses receivers placed about 100 feet before each signal that a conductor must acknowledge within eight seconds of the train approaching it. If the conductor fails to do so, the train automatically comes to a stop. Metrolink officials, who have come under considerable criticism for not putting safety measures in place, have said that the PTC technology is prohibitive because of its high cost. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) estimates that it would cost an average of $23,000 per mile to install a positive train control system. For Los Angeles County that adds up to $4.3 million.
I’ll bet Metrolink will end up paying out a lot more than $4.3 million to the injured victims and families of those who died in the Chatsworth accident. It is appalling that 26 people had to die and more than a 100 had to get severely injured for Metrolink to consider incorporating available safety technology. Metrolink officials took no proactive steps to prevent the recent Chatsworth train crash. Instead of spending money on safety measures, which could have saved lives, they will be spending money for legal defense. I trust Metrolink will settle promptly with all the victims of the Chatsworth train accident while focusing on improving safety systems in their operations before more tragedies occur.