The National Academies

TCRP A-44 [Final]

Strategies for Deterring Trespassing on Rail Transit and Commuter Rail Rights-of-Way

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Research Agency: Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Principal Investigator: Jeffery Warner
Effective Date: 9/7/2019
Completion Date: 4/1/2021
Comments: Complete - Published as TCRP Research Report 233

In response to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and its successor, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has established the Safety Management Systems (SMS) framework as the basis for its National Public Transportation Safety Program. A key aspect of the SMS approach is to bring management and labor together to detect and correct safety problems earlier and analyze safety data holistically to ensure that resources are applied effectively to mitigate risks.
One such risk facing the rail transit and commuter rail industries is related to a continuing problem with trespassing incidents occurring on many systems throughout the United States. Trespassers are at great risk for being struck and fatally injured or severely hurt while on the rights-of-way. The Federal Railway Administration (FRA) reports that “Trespassing along railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America. Nationally, more than 400 trespass fatalities and nearly as many injuries occur each year, the vast majority of which are preventable.” The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has long recognized the dangers associated with trespassers on the rights-of-way and recently held hearings to solicit input from the rail industry and other entities. (See Trains and Trespassing: Ending Tragic Encounters.)   
Rail transit and commuter rail agencies have deployed a variety of techniques and treatments to address the trespasser issue. These techniques and treatments have ranged from physical barriers to public outreach and education and had varying levels of success. The goal of this research is to catalog ways to deter trespassing on rail rights-of-way. The benefits are reduced fatalities or injuries due to trespassing, reduced emotional stress, reduced operational impacts, and reduced costs due to claims and lawsuits. This work will also provide proven trespasser prevention strategies to transportation agencies and regulatory bodies for consistent implementation.
The objectives of this research are to (1) review the breadth of current trespasser mitigation strategies research, (2) catalog the wide variety of current approaches to preventing trespassing on the rights-of-way, (3) analyze the different trespasser mitigation strategies to ascertain overall outcomes and effectiveness, and (4) document best practices and make recommendations.
STATUS:  Research is complete and TCRP Research report 233 is available here.

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