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Another Caltrain Fatality, and Still Nobody's Talking

Last Friday, yet another person was hit and killed by Caltrain. Precious few details are available regarding the accident, which occurred around 6:15 a.m. in Redwood City. The name of the victim was not released, nor were the circumstances of the accident, which is still apparently under investigation.

This was the second Caltrain fatality in January, in addition to one man who is still critically injured following the horrible two person accident a couple weeks ago. In that instance, investigators have now determined that the man who died was 35-year-old Philip Scholz, a computer graphics marketer who tried to rescue the second man when he appeared to be stuck on the tracks. It seems that the second victim, the one who remains critically injured, did not want to leave the tracks, leaving both men to be hit by the train, which was traveling at a high speed of 50-70 mph because it was an express train not scheduled to stop at that station.

Still, there is no word from Caltrain on starting to implement some safety measures. Once again, in the first train accident at least, it seems that Caltrain is pointing to suicide, having discovered that the injured victim didn't want to get off the train tracks. But what about the other victim, who died saving the man's life? Did he deserve to be hit? Of course not. Neither of them did, and neither did the woman who was killed on Friday, regardless of what Caltrain's investigation reveals. The point is that Caltrain chooses to accept the regular deaths and maimings.

The story of the New York City subway system over the course of the past year provides a stark contrast to the lack of effort on Caltrain's part to make its system safer. In early 2013, the New York City subway system saw an uptick in deaths as compared to previous years. Like in the Bay Area, many of these deaths were chalked up to suicide, but some weren't. One woman was hit and killed on New Year's when she stumbled onto the tracks, for example.

In light of this ongoing issue, Manhattan officials asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to launch a full-scale investigation and propose new safety measures that might help prevent deaths. Nothing was off limits, and the MTA considered the potential efficacy of barriers, increased signage, better audio warnings, sensors and thermal cameras, among other methods. In December, the MTA announced that they are going to start installing and testing a variety of methods for detecting passengers on the subway tracks well in advance of when a train engineer would see them. The methods include closed-circuit cameras, smart video software, lasers, radio frequencies below the platform and thermal cameras that can detect the body heat of a person on the train tracks.

Why has Caltrain not considered any of these measures? Has the death toll simply not risen high enough yet? What exactly is an acceptable death toll? How many more people will have to lose their lives in order for Caltrain to follow New York's lead?

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