Anti-Rail Campaign Puts Agenda Above Public Safety

For Immediate Release

January 29, 2018

-RPA Contact: Sean Jeans-Gail – (202) 793-3201

-AAR Contact: Jessica Kahanek – (202) 639-2345

-APTA Contact: Virginia Miller – (202) 496-4816

In light of recent tragic incidents in Florida—and an unhelpful political campaign targeting the Brightline rail service—the Rail Passengers Association, the Association of American Railroads and the American Public Transportation Association are coming together to educate the public on the importance of safe behavior around railroad tracks: it is never ok to use tracks as walking paths, and tracks should only be traversed using properly marked grade crossings.

Unfortunately, some local political action groups have attempted to use these incidents in a campaign to impose new government regulation on railroads. Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE-FL) issued a press release suggesting it is ok and normal for kids to use railroads as a walking path. The fact is, the only safe place to cross rail tracks is at a designated public crossing, which are marked by flashing lights, a gate, crossbucks, or a combination of these safety signals.

New regulation would not have changed any of the recent tragic yet avoidable incidents that occurred in Florida. Education does work. Crossing railroad tracks at other points and walking alongside the track is not only unsafe—it’s illegal, and trespassers can be ticketed or fined.

“These tragic accidents are opportunities to teach pedestrians how to avoid dangerous situations, and we are committed to helping spread that message,” said Jim Mathews, President and CEO of RPA. “What CARE-FL has done in endorsing railroad rights-of-way as a way to get to and from school is equivalent to telling kids it’s ok to play in traffic.”

“All of us have a role to play in preventing these tragedies, including discouraging reckless behavior on and around railroad tracks,” said AAR President and CEO Ed Hamberger. “Tracks are not playgrounds or shortcuts. When you see tracks, you need to think train.”

“The American Public Transportation Association joins with these concerned organizations to emphasize that rail trains and tracks are safe,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “We sincerely hope that the recent tragic loss of lives will lead to greater public awareness on how to safely proceed in or around rail tracks. Pedestrian accidents at railroads are preventable if commonsense rules are followed.”

Public transportation is one of the safest ways to travel in the country, and higher speed rail is a tremendous benefit to Florida, generating thousands of jobs and billions in economic impact. Passenger trains will take millions of cars off the road and connect our state in new ways.

For more information on how to properly educate children and teenagers on how to stay safe around trains, you can find a number of resources at Operation Lifesaver.

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The Rail Passengers Association is the oldest and largest national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is the world’s leading railroad policy, research and technology organization focusing on the safety and productivity of rail carriers. AAR members include the major freight railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Amtrak. Learn more at www.aar.org.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail.