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Officials worried about rail safety

Drivers reportedly have a habit of ignoring warning signs at Burbank Metrolink station.

May 23, 2011|By Maria Hsin
  • Riders wait ffor their train to arrive at the Burbank Metrolink station on Monday (File Photo).
Riders wait ffor their train to arrive at the Burbank Metrolink…

BURBANK — With the introduction of the new Metrolink express train service to Union Station in Los Angeles, officials in Burbank are concerned that the varied schedules could spell trouble for commuters who have a dangerous habit — crossing the station tracks against warning lights.

At the downtown Burbank Metrolink station, already one of the busiest stations in the system, commuters rush across the two tracks when a train is idle, mostly behind a northbound train. The assumption is that the train will not suddenly or accidentally reverse.

Burbank Transportation Commission Chairman Paul Dyson acknowledged that the practice isn’t new, but said that with the introduction of the express service and the accompanying schedule changes, safety was a serious concern.

Buses serve both sides of the station, which serves as a major junction for Antelope Valley and Ventura County lines, he said, adding to the busy mix. The station is also served by buses to the Media District and Glendale's Walt Disney Co. Creative Campus.

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In the days leading up to the launch of the express Metrolink train service — which eliminates some stops to quicken the commute time to downtown Los Angeles — officials combed the stations to warn passengers to be beware of new stop schedules, which could take some off guard.

For the uninitiated, the downtown Burbank station is the second-largest “destination station” — where people arrive in the morning and depart in the evening — behind downtown Los Angeles' Union Station, said David Kriske, a Burbank city planner.

Downtown Burbank is the sixth-busiest Metrolink station overall, with about 1,100 boardings, said Sherita Coffelt, a spokeswoman for the agency.

On a recent weekday afternoon, a security guard at the pedestrian crossing was warning riders that they should not cross the tracks — a practice that’s discouraged with lights and a loud bell. Large signs inform riders that they should not cross when the bell and lights are on.

Tracy Childress, a security guard who has worked in the industry 14 years, said she often observes commuters crossing the tracks when they shouldn’t.

“Some people will listen and some won't,” she said.

Officials note that there has yet to be a fatality at the station, although a 57-year-old Arcadia man sustained serious injuries in 2009 after he was struck by a slowing Metrolink train at the Downtown Burbank station platform, police said.

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