After one of their clients was seriously injured on railroad tracks, Wind Youth Services of Sacramento wanted to educate their clients about rail safety. On September 23, Capitol Corridor’s Transportation Services Manager, Mike Hendley, visited the social services agency that provides food, shelter, clothing, job placement, and support for homeless youth, to conduct a rail safety presentation.
Mike made the presentation as part of his volunteer involvement with California Operation Lifesaver (CAOL). CAOL is an independent, non-profit safety education and awareness program dedicated to ending collisions, fatalities, and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on railroad rights of way in California. CAOL also works with Union Pacific Railroad, which owns most of the tracks on which Capitol Corridor trains operate, to promote rail safety.
Mike and the CAOL volunteer team provide free presentations throughout the year to a variety of groups, including schools, bus drivers, professional truck drivers, law enforcement, first responders. They also speak to community groups and host outreach at sporting events.
Outreach to agencies working with homeless populations has become more prevalent, as the number of fatalities around railroad tracks continues to climb. Last year (between October 1, 2019, and September 30, 2020), there were 17 fatalities along the Capitol Corridor route alone. This year, there have been 19. Mike would love to see that number – a statistic he tracks as part of his job with the Capitol Corridor – drop to zero.
As many of our passengers have no doubt noticed while riding the train, homeless encampments are a common sight all along the route. While not all fatalities are within homeless communities – many are people simply not paying attention – this has been a growing and particularly vexing problem in California and across the country.
According to CAOL, outreach is a critical strategy for reducing fatal track incidents, especially during the pandemic when so many more people are experiencing economic hardship and desperation.
“California continues to rank number 1 in fatalities for both trespass and grade crossing incidents. To save lives, it is essential for CAOL, our rail partners, government agencies, and communities to work together to raise rail safety awareness across our state,” stressed Nancy Sheehan the CAOL Executive Director. “We are grateful to CAOL team members, like Mike, who are committed to providing community education that will help residents make safe decisions near tracks and trains.”
As the Capitol Corridor’s Transportation Services Manager, Mike is responsible for overall train and bus operations, and that includes safety and security at stations and along the railroad. While his role as a CAOL presenter fits in nicely with this work, for Mike it is much more.
Speaking about his recent presentation in Sacramento, he explained “Wind Youth is near and dear to my heart. I am committed to doing whatever I can to make people aware of how dangerous it is to be near tracks and impart tips for staying safe. My goal, whether in my day-to-day work at the Capitol Corridor, or as a volunteer presenter with CAOL, is to save as many lives as I can.”
If you would like to learn more about rail safety or about how to get involved with California Operation Lifesaver, please visit www.caol.us.