Transit safety • Many pedestrians are oblivious and reckless around trains.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The snow should be untouched and smooth in the middle of railroad tracks, a dangerous no-man's land where trains can kill. But at the City Center TRAX station, it is full of footprints from jaywalkers.
"You see people crossing there all day long even though we put in barriers to try to stop them," says Bob Rogers, a TRAX operations center supervisor who watched monitors with a Salt Lake Tribune reporter.
Sure enough, a man wearing earphones soon hops off the platform, jaywalks across the tracks and road and into a barrier on the far side that he hadn't noticed. Instead of jumping the barrier, he walks down a snowy Main Street as cars dodge him.
He isn't alone. In just two hours during the Dec. 27 afternoon rush, 26 other people jaywalk at that station some directly in front of trains that they just exited.
The Tribune saw 97 separate reckless, potentially fatal incidents in those two hours watching monitors for just eight TRAX stations. TRAX has 41 stations, and FrontRunner has 16. They also have hundreds of street crossings so the potential for dangerous activity on any given day is staggering.
Of the 97 incidents spotted, 40 involved jaywalkers crossing tracks; 39 with people over yellow lines or standing too close to arriving or departing trains; 14 where cars either raced through lowering gates at crossings or went through rising gates too soon; and four where pedestrians walked around lowered gates.
Among the worst individual incidents was a man walking, his back to an arriving train which he probably did not know was coming who suddenly wandered far over the yellow line and even leaned over the tracks. People at the operations center yelled as it appeared he would be hit. He pulled back just in time.
"It looks like the operator honked at him," Rogers says.
Among "yellow-line" violations witnessed, a young girl tried to touch an arriving train; a woman pushing a stroller with her back to a train was close to being hit; and a man dancing to music on his headphones almost moon-walked backward into an arriving train.
At Temple Square station, first one man jaywalked, then a couple more followed, then maybe 50 people suddenly cut dangerously across tracks. "They're like lemmings," UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter says as he watched.
He noted that each could have been given a ticket if a transit officer had been nearby for $300 for violating the track right of way or $500 if they were repeat offenders.
At the Library station, one man actually rides a bicycle off a train and, without looking, pedals it onto the tracks and across the street.
At Central Pointe station, a teen runs across the path of one train apparently to try to catch another. "Train operators see that every day. It's scary," Rogers says. One person was killed in 2012 running in front of an approaching TRAX train.
A complete list and description of all the incidents seen in the two hours is available online at sltrib.com.