Metro Transit picked up a Gold Award for Safety from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for its efforts to improve pedestrian safety along light rail lines.

The award lauded the transit agency for executing a public outreach and engineering program that included billboards, on-board and platform advertisements posted at rail platforms and inside rail cars, and social media messages broadcast to more than 2 million people emphasizing the proper way for motorists and pedestrians to interact with trains.

It also cited new flashing "wig-wag" headlights installed on the front of light-rail vehicles to make them more visible to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. The lights operate whenever a train pulls into or out of a station, or crosses a street or pedestrian crossing.

The safety enhancements and initiatives were enacted last year after there were 14 crashes involving pedestrians on the Green and Blue lines between Jan. 4, 2015 and Jan. 3, 2016. Two people died in those crashes in 2015 and one in 2016.  Last year the number of crashes involving pedestrians dropped in half to seven.

Metro Transit earned the award, presented Monday at the APTA's Rail Safety and Security Excellence Awards in Baltimore, for a significant drop in the number of time operators had to hit the emergency break. Operators used emergency breaks 849 times in 2016, down from 1,084 the previous year, said Metro Transit spokesman Drew Kerr.

Kerr said the number of collisions per 100,000 vehicle miles traveled has steadily declined since the Green Line opened in 2014. Through April, there have been .51 collisions per 100,000 vehicle miles traveled, down slightly from the same time period in 2016.

It was the third time Metro Transit won a Gold Award since 2009. The Gold Award comes a year after Metro Transit was named APTA's 2016 Transit System of the Year.

A team of Metro Transit rail operators finished fourth in the Rail Rodeo Operator competition held in conjunction with the awards ceremony, The competition tested operators' safety and customer service skills.

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