Readers React: Can Anything Be Done about Metra/BNSF Fatalities?
With three pedestrian fatalities in less than two weeks across a four-mile DuPage County stretch of the BNSF Railway, we wanted to know: how do we make it stop? Can we?
If you've noticed lately that Patch has been overrun with tragic stories about people being killed by trains along Metra's Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway, it's not because we just started reporting them—it's because there have been three in the past two weeks within a span of just a few commuter stops.
First, it happened in Westmont on March 7, then in Hinsdale on March 18 and in Downers Grove on March 19. All three incidents involved a single person; all three were fatal, all three are still under investigation and none have been officially established as accidents or self-inflicted.
We wondered if our readers had any idea how to make this terrible streak go away, and how to help ensure these things happen as infrequently as possible. Read some of what we got back from our Facebook followers below:
"I guess it depends on where the fatalities are happening along the tracks. Is it ignorance? Is it a dangerous crossing that needs to be addressed? Things like bridges and underpasses only go so far to fixing the problem. Here in Winfield, we have an underpass, yet 99% of the people I see get off the train don't use it, and instead walk across the street crossing, some of them ducking under the arms. There really is only so much that can be done. The rest is up to the individual."
— Deanna Jones Mustafa, Wheaton Patch Faceook
"These all seem to be purposeful on the part of the deceased, and I can't even begin to imagine what any railroad can do to stop something like that. What we can do is continue to work hard to remind people that no matter how difficult they think their current situation is, there is loving help available! You do not need to resort to inflicting that kind of pain on your family or friends... please consider the agony this causes for the engineer of the train, the police officers and the paramedics who get the call, and the unintended witnesses who might happen to be in the area."
— Karen Sherman Bushy, Downers Grove Patch Facebook
"Nothing can be done if they're purposely going on there to end their life. Anyone else it happens too just needs to slow down and not be in a hurry., pay clear attention without distractions(phones, text, music, etc..) Follow the rules. Nothing worth the risk! Like we were taught as kids..Stop, Look, Listen! If you see a train, don't cross. If you hear a train, don't cross! If gates are coming down, don't cross!"
— Dani Fish, Downers Grove Patch Facebook
"I regret when any negative/bad/sad news comes out of Downers Grove. But for the most part Downers Grove is a head of most of Illinois when it comes to public safety signs for rail road tracks, construction work sites, I currently in Ottawa, IL where not all railroad crossing sites have gates like they do in DG. As for people suffering from mental health issues there is many proper support groups and medical facilities in DuPage county. I know this is a no-brainer but safety signs around the train station the by-standers should beware of there soundings and not their mobile devices but the trains and cars."
— Earl M. Mcguire, Downers Grove Patch Facebook
"This is further proof of the lack of common sense people have today... commuter trains last all of a minute... when people think about racing that train to save that extra minute... perhaps their filter should consider the pain their families and friends will endure when they lose the race...as they usually do..."
— Nicky Weiner-Swank, Woodridge Patch Facebook
"For the riders who are in a hurry and are being careless, they need to slow down and be careful when they think of crossing the tracks. As for the people who turn to suicide, what could fellow commuters possibly do? How do you stop a complete stranger from doing this in the first place? There's no way to know they're going to do it until it's too late. And it's not Metra's fault either. Very sad."
— Carolyn Lundgren, Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Patch Facebook
"I don't think you can control people deciding "death by train" is a good option, but they can always reiterate the safety rules to the people outside the train. A lot of the time they are only broadcast to people on the train when there are plenty of people around that are not going onto a train. Also, all the signs and announcements are in English when there are plenty of people around the Western suburbs that speak Spanish, Polish, Japanese, and Chinese."
— Concetta Phillipps, Lisle Patch Facebook.
"Unfortunately, not much. If someone is determined enough to end their life, they will find a way. Diagnosing depression and mental illness and providing services to intervene early would help avoid this sad and tragic fate."
— Andre Wright, Glen Ellyn Patch Facebook.
"You have to change the fundamental nature of people to stop being selfish and / or stupid."
— Greg Uhlenhopp, Naperville Patch Facebook
"No standing at the platform until the train has stopped... Make more places to sit."
— Burnal Roy Hansen, Darien Patch Facebook.
"At this point, common sense seems to have been thrown out the window. Other than the inconvenience (of investigating the death and picking up pieces), I say let the stupid people just cull the herd and call it a day. You can't fix stupid. I don't even think more lights, more guard rails, or more awareness can fix this. And anything you could think of would just cost more money that there doesn't seem to be enough, and would only trickle down to Train Passengers to pay. As it is, people have had enough and are becoming desensitized."
— Rose Perez, Elmhurst Patch Facebook.
"My client witnessed the whole thing. The man stood there with his arms crossed waiting for the train. He obviously had a plan."
— Lisa Raciak, Lemont Patch Facebook.
"It's their own fault! Get off your phones, etc. and pay attention!"
— Staci Keebles, Lemont Patch Facebook.