Sunday, September 14, 2008

When Tragedy Hits Close To Home

By Allen Bacon
The Daily Bosco

I got the fright of my life Friday.

A Metrolink train on the tracks between Union Station in Los Angeles and Chatsworth collided with a freight train. That particular line is of interest to me because my son Felix takes that exact line from downtown Los Angeles to Cal State Northridge.

My heart sank because it sounded like the wreck was close to Northridge. I got more scared when my son didn't respond to my call. Minutes later, he returned my call....he was not on the train. He didn't need to go to the CSUN campus Friday.

24 families were not so fortunate. They didn't get a call back from their loved one. There may be more. It was the most horrific passenger train wreck in fifteen years in the United States. The most terrible in California history.

As a huge supporter of rail and alternative travel to single automobile and one who has taken that line and many others in the greater Los Angeles area and actually all over the country (I just finished a coast to coast trip by rail in July) I am in shock today.

With the cost of gas where it is, many people are discovering the benefits of rail travel. Not only in the cost savings and the lessening of our dependence on foreign oil but the intangibles as well. Like how you can get work done on the train or the friendships you develop or how it gives you time to relax after a long day at work.

I'm afraid this horrible tragedy is going to set the progress that has been made back a few notches.

The reality is there are literally thousands of people that utilize the rail services across America everyday. And everyday hundreds of trains get to their destination without any incident. The line from LA to Chatsworth had no reported incidents up until yesterday. So I hope this doesn't scare away any potential new riders.

As with any tragedy like this, the priority is to get to and rescue the survivors. The emergency response personnel on the scene in Chatsworth have done an amazing job. They are to be commended for their outstanding effort.

After that there will be time to assess what happened. One thing that needs to be analyzed is the practice of passenger trains sharing the same tracks as freight trains. Not sure how to get around this but this is a recipe for disaster. Or why there are still single lines. Can more double lines be built where you have dedicated tracks for each direction the trains are traveling?

Again, for now the priority is the rescue effort. If you are in a position to help the families effected by this tragedy or give blood, contact or call1.800.HELPNOW

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