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Metrolink's grim national record

Only N.J.'s far-busier commuter rail has had more deaths since '99.

September 15, 2008|Steve Hymon | Times Staff Writer

Capon said that Friday's accident should spur railroads to implement automated systems, known as positive train control, that can correct for human errors and stop trains before it's too late.

"They always want to make it anybody's fault beside their own," said Ed Pfiester, a Los Angeles-based attorney who specializes in railroad litigation and was involved in lawsuits stemming from the 2003 crash and is representing passengers in the 2005 crash.

"I just don't think they are managing it like they should in light of the kind of territory they run," he added. "They need better surveillance and security on grade crossings."

In 2006, a Metrolink train slammed into a car driven by Maureen Osborn, 76, killing her instantly near the intersection of Buena Vista Street and San Fernando Road in Glendale. Metrolink officials said Osborn was trying to beat the train.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, September 19, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
2006 Metrolink accident: An article on Metrolink's safety record in Monday's A section stated that Maureen Osborn was killed in 2006 when a Metrolink train struck her car in Glendale; the accident was in Burbank.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, December 04, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 3 inches; 132 words Type of Material: Correction
Metrolink fatalities: An article in the Sept. 15 Section A reporting that Metrolink had the most fatalities in the country among urban commuter railroads underreported the total number of deaths for Metrolink and other rail systems. The figures in the article and accompanying chart, shown as the total number of deaths from 1999 through mid-September 2008, were for the first six months of each of those years. The full-year number of fatalities for Metrolink was 94, not 74. Analysis of the full-year figures shows the same pattern reported in the article -- that Metrolink's record of fatalities per mile traveled is worse than that of other major commuter rail systems in the United States. For the original article and chart and the corrected figures for deaths in those years, go to latimes.com/metrolink.

The accident happened exactly three years after another at the same crossing, when a train hit a truck stopped on the tracks -- killing the driver and a train passenger.

Osborn's son Jim has long argued that his mother wasn't trying to race the train but was confused by the combination of traffic signals and railroad crossing lights in the area.

He believes Metrolink often shifts blame to motorists, ignoring more fundamental problems.

"Because my mom made a mistake, she's dead," said Osborn, an engineer who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. "Metrolink doesn't fix problems. They leave them alone and let them grow into big problems."

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steve.hymon@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Railroad deaths

Number of reported fatalities from all causes (auto collisions, pedestrians hit, yard accidents, derailments, etc.) on major commuter rail systems from 1999 to Saturday:

Railroad, location: Fatalities

(Miles in 2007, in millions)

Metra, Chicago (4.8): 60

New Jersey Transit (4.7): 80

Metro North, N.Y., Conn. (4.7): 22

Long Island Rail Road (4.2): 40

SEPTA, Philadelphia (2.6): 21

MBTA, Boston (2.0): 41

Tri-County, South Florida (1.7): 28

Metrolink (1.2): 74

Caltrain, Bay Area (0.7): 41

MARC, Maryland (0.6): 6

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Source: Federal Railroad Administration, Times research.

Graphics reporting by Scott Wilson

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