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Safety is the Only Choice

By Heather Redfern
SEPTA Press Officer

Stay behind the yellow lines on the platforms. Never run for a bus, train or trolley. Don't trespass by walking alongside or in the track area.

The messages are simple, but cannot be heard too many times. And on May 1 - the first ever SEPTA Safety Awareness Day - 500 of the Authority's employees, City Year corps members and community representatives headed to 161 SEPTA stations, bus and trolley loops and transportation centers throughout the Authority's five-county service area during the morning commute to educate the public about making the "safe choice" when riding on or walking near SEPTA's vehicles and facilities.

"The majority of transit related incidents are preventable," said SEPTA System Safety Director Scott Sauer. "A moving train can't steer out of the way of a person in the tracks and it takes more effort and time to slow or stop a train. By walking along the tracks to take a shortcut or crossing the tracks instead of using a dedicated overpass or underpass to get to the other side of station, people are putting themselves in imminent, and unnecessary, danger."

Among the locations where SEPTA officials greeted passengers were those that have been identified by System Safety as trespassing "hot spots", like Overbrook and Fern Rock Regional Rail station. Sauer and SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey held a press conference at a lot along the West Trenton Line, between Somerton and Trevose Stations - an area where too many people make the illegal and dangerous choice of walking along the tracks.

"Many people believe they will be able to hear the train coming and get out of the way or that they know the schedule and which tracks the trains will use," said Sauer. "What these trespassers don't realize or understand is that a train can come on any track at any time, not all vehicles make all stops and electric trains are very quiet. You can never assume you will hear the vehicle coming and have time to get out of the way."

Proving this point were several SEPTA trains that passed through the area during the press conference. "You didn't hear that coming did you?" Casey asked the audience. He added, pointing to the nearby Pennsylvania Turnpike overpass, "The tracks are the highway for our trains. You wouldn't walk along the highway, why would you walk along the tracks?"

With more than one million riders traveling on its 2,200 mile service area every day, SEPTA is committed to providing a safe travel environment for its passengers. But one of the goals of Safety Awareness Day was to reach all members of the public with the safety messages. "We want our customers to share the educational materials and tips with their families, friends and neighbors," said Casey. "We need the community to be our partners to help us spread the word about safety."

SEPTA's Safety Awareness Day is unprecedented - this is believed to be the only such all-out endeavor by a U.S. transit organization. But for the Authority, this isn't a one day event - safety is part of the SEPTA culture every day. "At least once a month, we hold Safety Blitz programs and our safety officers visit railroad, rail transit and bus stations across the Authority, reviewing regulations and precautions with thousands of passengers," said Sauer. "We often visit locations as a result of community request or stations that have had a high volume of passengers or trespassers."

The System Safety Department also makes Operation Lifesaver presentations to students from kindergarten through high school and to a wide variety of audiences such as hearing and visually impaired adults, driver's education students, emergency responders and professional drivers. SEPTA offers the presentations free of charge to school and community groups. Each program is tailored to the specific audience and includes a slide show, video and question-and-answer session.

"We urge more organizations to take advantage of the Operation Lifesaver training we provide," said Casey. "Working together we can make our system safer for everyone."

Five hundred SEPTA employees, City Year corps members and community partners headed to more than 160 SEPTA locations to to educate the public about the dangers of committing acts like this- trespassing in the track area.

System Safety Director Scott Sauer's point that electric trains are very quiet is proven during the press conference held along the West Trenton Line.

With the Pennsylvania Turnpike behind him, GM Joe Casey said, "The tracks are the highway for our trains. You wouldn't walk along the highway, why would you walk along the tracks?"

Assistant General Manager for Engineering, Maintenance and Construction Bob Lund spoke with passengers at Malvern Station.

Scott Sauer and System Safety officers take SEPTA's safety messages to the community thorughout the year. Here Sauer speaks to kindergarten through fourth grade students at Nazareth Academy Grade School as part of Operation Lifesaver.