BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — Cars running red lights, pedestrians wandering out onto the tracks and e-scooter wipeouts are just a few of the countless dangers TriMet light rail operators have to watch out for every single day.
The agency just released videos of some recent close calls. While no one was seriously injured in any of these incidents, operators tell KOIN 6 drivers, cyclists and even passengers need to be more aware of their surroundings.
View from the operator’s seat
To get a firsthand idea of how challenging a light rail operator’s job is, KOIN 6 went out to TriMet’s Elmonica Rail Operating Facility to meet the operators and learn how to drive a train.
Real operators have to be bus drivers first. Then they spend about 11 weeks learning how to operate the MAX trains.
“They’ve got to learn the difference from a bus,” Krista Stone, a training supervisor, said. “They do different ways of scanning intersections … we have to predict a lot sooner what people are going to do.”
At full speed, a two-vehicle train takes about 1/5 of a mile to stop, according to TriMet. That doesn’t give operators much time to react to bicyclists or pedestrians entering their path unexpectedly.
Operator Brittany Hall said there’s “a lot of room for improvement” when it comes to peoples’ awareness around trains.
“I have to be overly cautious for them, meaning that I have to predict what they’re going to do,” Hall said.
All of this comes in the middle of Rail Safety Week. TriMet is working with Operation Lifesaver, Inc., the U.S. Department of Transportation and other organizations to encourage people to be safe near rail crossings and tracks. TriMet released the following tips:
- Be aware: Look both ways, follow signals and remember that trains travel in both directions so a second train could be on its way.
- Avoid distraction: That means looking up from your phone, not blasting music so loud you can’t hear a train horn etc.
- Stay in your lane: This one’s for you, cars. TriMet says “Don’t walk, roll or drive on MAX tracks.” And when you’re at stations, stay behind the bumpy white safety strips at the edge of the platform.
- Don’t block your view: That means making sure your sunglasses, umbrellas, hoodies and other clothing items aren’t keeping you from seeing clearly when you cross tracks and streets.
- Be seen: It’s getting dark out earlier, so use safety lights or reflective vests, tape or stickers to make yourself more visible if you travel in the early morning or evening.