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August 23, 2018


It Don't Come Easy

I just got back from Portland, OR and their light rail train does not have a horn (or maybe it does and only used it for emergencies?). I didn't hear it and I took the train almost everyday for 5 days. It was quiet, clean and safe by Bay Area standards. I saw no crossing gates downtown! So why does the peninsula need gates, red lights with ringing bells, and train horns?


From today's DJ:

The Department of Transportation announced this week that Caltrain has been awarded a grant for $18.7 million that will help complete a federally mandated safety upgrade to the rail corridor’s signal system, according to the transit agency.

In March, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board of Directors approved a contract with Wabtec Railway Electronics, Inc. to complete the PTC project. The Wabtec contract was awarded and funded for the remainder of the project. However, staff identified a $30.4 million gap. This grant, along with other previously identified funds, will reduce the funding gap to $6.4 million, according to Caltrain.



And this as well:

A person was fatally struck by a train Friday evening in Burlingame, Caltrain officials said.

The collision occurred at 6:38 p.m. on the tracks at Morrell Avenue.


Steve Kassel

Alex Wolf, 18 is the name of the person killed on the train tracks. He was on the Burlingame High track team last year and was about to head off to Boston University.


God Bless Alex Wolf's family and loved ones.
Living in Burlingame for 30 years, lots of People have died in front of a train.
If anyone feels bad enough, there is nothing that will keep them from killing themselves.
Peace be with you. I am sure Alex will be missed.

Ted Yun

I believe all the crossings (Broadway, Oak Grove, Howard) in Burlingame have the four-quadrant gate systems, and if this isn't in compliance for the quiet zone regulations, it shouldn't cost that much to bring them into compliance.

Image of four quadrant gates:


I think there are two reasons for not implementing the quiet zone. The first "official" reason was from Brownrigg. I asked this question during the City Council Elections, when there was a Q&A with the candidates. He basically said that only a minority of residents had voiced concerns about the train noise, and when put to vote, the residents voted to use resources to other issues. Being new to Burlingame, I am not sure what the history behind these resident votes, but I can see why, because residents west of El Camino are not impacted by the train noise to a great extent.

The second "unofficial" reason I gleaned from talking to other residents who have looked into the possibility of a quiet zone for Burlingame. They basically said that the city does not want to assume liability in an event such as the tragedy last Fri night. I am not a lawyer, but in these events, whether they be intentional or unintentional, it is possible that the city could be faced with a lawsuit because it mandated that the train horns not be sounded, thus the city did not do everything possible in order to prevent the tragedy.

So I guess we are stuck with the noise. And just like the SFO noise, it will get worse and worse. With the electrification project moving full steam ahead (pun intended), Caltrain is boasting that they will be able to increase the number of trains. This will mean more frequent crossings, and a near constant stream of train horn noise in our little community.


hollyroller, please do not speculate on causes or motivations for tragedies like this here. Please.


I will do so Joe.
I have enjoyed commenting on this web site.
I like to comment on things that people may be "thinking," but are afraid to ask, or comment.
I appreciate the BV, your work, and letting some of my Controversial/Fun POV's.

Ted Yun

Independent of the train noise issue, I am wondering if the latest tragedy on Fri, in addition to cars being struck at the crossings is enough to start a conversation with the city council on having grade separations at each crossing in addition to the one on Broadway.

As it is now, access to the tracks is far too easy. If the entire track system can be isolated by fencing/wire and have pedestrian and vehicle traffic rerouted, that should mitigate any future tragedies.

Steve Kassel

Who's paying for that, Ted? Do you have any idea how expensive that would be for every crossing and that in many cases it would necessitate a huge number of homes and businesses being removed?

Steve Kassel

BTW, Ted the city of Burlingame is only one of a huge number of agencies involved in getting at grade crossings removed. There are a myriad of state agencies as well as the Feds in some cases.


We are talking MASSIVE money and it is a political third rail in B'game as it would "split the town" in two. Unlike in San Carlos for example, a lot of B'game is on the east side.

Ted Yun

Just a shocked and saddened parent of a BHS freshman here, Steve. No solutions yet for funding or navigating through the bureaucracy.

Although I am new here to Burlingame, my intern this year is a former BHS student. We were discussing the tragedy today. She was sad, but not surprised. In her view, train collisions with people or vehicles are sadly not uncommon. I do not know how often they occur, but since I've living here for the past year, I believe there have been 3 vehicle collisions and 1 person collision.

I had to drive an object for my freshman over to BHS this morning before classes started, and it is a very congested situation at the Oak Grove crossing. You have kids on foot or in cars rushing to make it to class on time. When the gates come down, you have a mob of impatient kids and drivers trying to get through.

The best we can do now is education. I try to stress, as often as I can, safety at the crossings. Never wear both headphones when walking around town. Also, I am happy to know that BHS holds "train awareness" sessions.

Still, with Caltrain planning to increase the frequency of the trains, Facebook moving into town, I wonder if the number of incidents is bound to increase.

Steve Kassel

I've had two sons graduate from BHS. I lived in Burlingame for 16 years and I've lived in the county since I moved here in 1985. Living with Caltrain in part of life here.

The number of "accidental" deaths on Caltrain tracks is infinitesimal. Several months ago there were a couple cars hit by trains at the Broadway crossing. They were legitimate accidents. In both cases, the cars were hit, but the occupants got out first. That is uncommon. There was another one like that at Middlefield in Palo Alto about a year or so ago. 99% of the true accidents are from people IGNORING the signals.

I am not aware of a single accidental pedestrian death on the Caltrain tracks. Not one. I'm not speculating on any way on Friday's death. I am looking at past events only.

Maybe Joe, Russ and Cathy know if there have been true accidental deaths recorded on Caltrain as opposed to intentional events.


I'm not aware that Caltrain accounts for it that way, but I agree in general that it must be rare.


I am surprised to see that my comments started a "thread."
Regarding the monetary costs of preventing, in everyway possible, an "accident" on CalTrains Tracks; there will never be enough money.
Therefore, more "cost efficient" to pay legal claims instead of prevention.
Same goes for the lack of seatbelts in school buses, and "Commuter Buses."
All we can do is hope for the best.

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