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Metro sees 'uptick' in Blue Line fatalities this year, says official

By Hayley Fox
Published: Friday, July 27, 2012, at 05:06PM
Flickr via fredcamino

The Blue Line has seen an "uptick" in fatalities this year, officials say.

The Metro Blue Line has seen an abnormally high number of fatalities so far this year, with a total of 20 accidents having occurred along this light-rail line that runs from downtown L.A. to Long Beach.

Rick Jager, communications manager at Metro, said that offhand he didn't know the exact number of deaths from year's preceding -- but that the agency knew there was a significant "uptick" this year.

"Traditionally we haven't had this many fatalities in this short of a time period in years past," said Jager.

On Thursday, Metro officials passed a motion directing the CEO to create a task force that would look into current safety procedures, signage, traffic issues and more, and report back in November with findings and possible solutions.

"Basically we're concerned about, we're aware of it and the board wants us to bring in a task force to try to take a look at the situation out there -- what's happening out there," said Jager.

So far this year there have been 20 accidents, said Jager, which include everything from a "minor fender bender" to a broken mirror, or much more severe incidents which involved deaths. Six of the 20 accidents were fatalities; three of these deaths have been confirmed as suicides and one other is currently being investigated as such.

The Blue Line opened in 1990 and since then has "travelled over a million miles," said Jager. He said that the fatalities which have happened "have occurred by motorists and pedestrians ignoring traffic laws out in the are." This includes ignoring posted signs or going underneath gates. So far Metro has been working on combatting the issue by doing "aggressive outreach," said Jager, in addition to installing new signage, visiting local schools and putting in cameras and new gates.

"It's an effort that we will not rest until everything is explored or implemented," he added.

Jager said the next steps for Metro will be for the task force to investigate the Blue Line and report back to the board with potential safety enhancements -- including possible suicide prevention strategies, due to the number of fatalities that were suicides.

Throughout the years Metro has implemented new safety elements in all their trains, said Jager, adding that most of their other lines have have remained relatively accident free -- including the Green, Gold and Expo.

But the recently opened Expo Line did hit a few snags in its testing stages. In April, a test Expo train collided with a car at the intersection of Watt Way and Exposition Boulevard near USC -- pinning the car between the train and a guardrail fence. KPCC reports that in March, a test Expo train collided with another car just south of Downtown and injured six people.

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