Today, Metrolink announced it was awarded a $59,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to address the issue of suicides along its system through outreach and training with key railroad staff, first responders and community members.
According to Metrolink’s internal safety records, 40 percent of Metrolink pedestrian train strikes between 2017 and 2019 were caused by people wanting to end their lives. The $59,000 grant funds an outreach campaign to deter suicides through training, public engagement, and awareness at four identified “hot spots” in north Orange County between Anaheim and Santa Ana, south Orange County from San Juan Capistrano through San Clemente, in the San Fernando Valley between Van Nuys and Burbank and in the San Fernando/Sylmar area.
Metrolink displays the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1.800.273.8255, on posters and its electronic signs at rail stations.
From 2019-2019, there were 93 incidents of pedestrian train strikes against a person. Of that number, 37 were declared suicide by the local county coroner after investigation. Due to the nature of suicide investigations, the actual number of suicides might be higher.
An ongoing crisis of homelessness results in people living alongside railroad rights of way, putting them very near trains passing by, sometimes at speeds of 70 miles per hour. Research indicates that availability of a means of death is a major factor in suicide and, in the case of homeless encampments near tracks, trains become the means.
“Metrolink is eager to work with law enforcement and community groups to help in any way we can to educate individuals homeless encampments about options available to them,” said Metrolink CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “This grant is a force multiplier for our efforts to keep people safe in the vicinity of our tracks.”
The grant is part of the Suicide Prevention Project funded by the FRA’s Railroad Trespassing Suicide Prevention Grant Program. It will be directed by a steering committee with Metrolink staff working closely with a team of psychologists from the University of Denver Transportation Research Center, skilled in training mental health professionals and working with the transportation industry. The Project will last 12 months.