Metro Transit this week will put up two billboards promoting pedestrian safety along the Blue and Green lines not far from where three people have been killed by light-rail trains over the past month. At least two others were injured.
The agency is using part of a $20,000 grant it received from Operation Lifesaver to pay for the billboards that will go up near 45th Street and Hiawatha Avenue S. in Minneapolis and around Hamline and University avenues in St. Paul.
The billboards carrying the message “See Tracks? Think Trains” are the first of a multipronged effort to remind pedestrians to be safe around trains — and also to not chase buses.
This is Metro Transit’s first effort to refresh its rail education and safety messages since 2014, and it comes after a string of collisions along the metro area’s two light-rail lines.
Daniel Wiese was killed while trying to cross the tracks Jan. 3 at E. 32nd Street and Hiawatha Avenue S. A bicyclist, Jason M. McCormick, 29, of Minneapolis, was killed at E. 46th Street and Hiawatha Avenue S. on Dec. 11. One person died in December in a crash along the Green Line in St. Paul. Two other people were injured in collisions with light-rail trains in December, one each on the Green Line and the Blue Line.
“It breaks my heart,” said Sheryl Cummings, executive director of the Minnesota affiliate of Operation Lifesaver, a national nonprofit issuing grants for the outreach.
In the coming weeks and into the spring, Metro Transit plans to put placards with the same message inside buses and light-rail cars and to wrap the outside of trains. The agency is looking at placing stickers with the safety message next to buttons that train riders push to open the doors. It also is contemplating creating public-service announcements that would play in movie theaters in proximity to the Green and Blue lines, a move Metro Transit has not tired before, said Mike Conlon, director of rail and bus safety for the agency.
“I really like the ‘See Tracks? Think Trains’ message,” Conlon said. “It’s very down to earth and logical. People don’t have to read a lot.”
Metro Transit was one of eight transit agencies nationally that recently received grants from Operation Lifesaver to remind motorists and pedestrians to be alert for approaching trains and light-rail vehicles. Metro Transit will kick in $6,600 of its own money, too, Conlon said.
The Operation Lifesaver grants were funded by the Federal Transit Administration.
Cummings said Minnesota Operation Lifesaver has worked for more than 30 years to prevent deaths and injuries around trains. “Most instances could be prevented if we take the time and don’t become impatient and don’t get distracted,” she said.