Safety: Motorist Safety
Safety is always top priority for VTA. We endeavor to provide a safe environment for motorists, pedestrians and riders. Our light rail system has been designed with many safety features, and improvements since its inception have further improved safety.
U.S. cities with similar light rail systems include Houston, TX; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City, UT; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; and Minneapolis, MN, among others. All of these cities have light rail operating within their streets (semi-exclusive alignments).
The most common light rail vehicle accident types for on-street systems are:
- Left and right-turning vehicles crossing illegally and in front of light rail vehicle
- Red light running
- Pedestrians walking in front of moving light rail vehicle
To improve traffic operations and minimize these and other common collision types, the following features are included in our light rail system:
- Controlled track crossings – For safety reasons, traffic is only allowed to cross the tracks at a controlled location. To warn motorists and pedestrians, special signing activate when trains approach. Traffic delineators and six inch curbs separate light rail track from traffic lanes in areas in which light rail operates on shared streets. In addition, the curbs are painted with reflective white paint to improve their visibility.
- Light Rail on Street Level – At locations that light rail operates at street level, both automobile traffic and light rail vehicles are governed by traffic/trolley signals that are coordinated by the municipalities’ traffic controllers at each intersection. This insures that light rail vehicles receive a signal to proceed through intersections only when cross traffic has received stop signals.
- At Risk Track Crossings – To help ensure the safety of motorist and riders VTA has modified track crossing locations that are identified as having high incident rates of near misses. This includes moving stop lines back 20 feet for left turn lane traffic, and installing duel traffic signals that alternate between the international symbols for “No Left Turn” and “Trolley Coming”.
- Gated Track Crossings – Automated gates and bells are installed at some vehicle track crossings as well as pedestrian track crossing at some stations. Motorists and pedestrians should wait until the crossing arm is completely raised and the bells have stopped ringing as there are times that approaching trains will reactivate the crossing arm as they are still in the process of being raised.
- Light rail vehicle cameras – Cameras are installed on VTA light rail vehicles so that train operators can better see passengers on platforms and any obstructions. They are also installed on the vehicle exterior for monitoring and recording traffic conditions and unsafe driving behaviors, including accidents.
- Pedestrian Fencing - To provide protection for pedestrians before and after large events, temporary pedestrian fencing is used at some light rail locations to ensure people do not unsafely cross light rail tracks. In addition, permanent fencing us used in areas where pedestrians may be tempted to unsafely cross light rail tracks, including at the Children’s Discovery Museum and schools adjacent to tracks.
- Public education campaign – VTA has an extensive public education campaign to inform and educate citizens about how to drive, bike, walk near the light rail system safely. Our Youth Outreach Program provides additional light rail safety information to students at schools near light rail tracks.