Are Quiet Zone Crossings Less Safe Than Regular Crossings?

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Are Quiet Zone Crossings Less Safe Than Regular Crossings?

  • The horn silencing effect of the quiet zone may or may not have played a role in the Texas crash, but the effect matters.  And if the effect is found to have played a role this crash, it may be cited as part of the cause, regardless of the fact that the driver violated one or more laws.  But many seem to insist that the quiet zone effect does not matter, whether it played a role in this crash or not.  They say that the quiet zone effect is beside the point because crashes are always caused by drivers breaking the law.  And the law violation is all that matters. 

    Furthermore, many would have us believe that quiet zones are just as safe as non-quiet zones.  That is what I previously believed to be the case.  I cannot believe they would allow quiet zones unless they were just as safe as non-quiet zones.   

    So it really surprises me to read this on the linked reference dated 5/18/12:

    http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/investigations/track-side-neighbors-hounded-by-horns

    Quote from the link regarding waiting for U.P. to approve quiet zones for South Austin, TX:

     

    It is a waiting game for the city. Since Union Pacific owns the tracks, the railroad giant sets the schedule -- one where caution is a priority.

    The railroad’s website says: "Union Pacific believes quiet zones compromise the safety of railroad employees, customers, and the general public."

    But Schatz said the absence of the loud warning of an approaching freight train compromises safety.

    "It's known that, if the train does not sound its horn at the crossing, the chance of a crash occurring increases 68 percent,” he said.

     

    I wonder if U.P.’s viewpoint on this is shared by other authorities involved in setting up quiet zones, and by cities asking for quiet zones.  With all the worry about railroad safety, how can they countenance quiet zones if they increase the hazard by 68 percent?

    Is the railroad relieved of crossing liability as part of the deal to put in a quiet zone?  If so, who assumes that liability?

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  • I'm curious as to just how UP arrived at that number and if that data matches that of other railroads. 

    Dan

  • The numerical value (68%) is from a quote by Gary Schatz, the city’s assistant director of transportation, not U.P.

     

    Semper Vaporo

    Pkgs.

  • Just remember that 78% of statistics are made up on the spot.

    "I'm not smart enough to ever figure it all out.  All I can do right now is keep moving forward!"  - Rin Okumura

  • zugmann

    Just remember that 78% of statistics are made up on the spot.

    Statistics can suggest a lot but they can also conceal something that others don't want revealed. As Aaron Levenstein said 'Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive but what they conceal is vital'. And there are two kinds of statistics. The kind you look up and the kind you make up. The second is usually used by those wishing to take the evil eye off of something they don't want examined too closely.

    Running Bear, Sundown, Louisiana
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  • Or as Mark Twain was supposed to have uttered, 'We have lies, damned lies and statistics!'

    Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Yeah, I don’t trust any statistic.  Each one of them is certain to contain an unintentional math error.  And they are all supporting a pretext.  So I would discount the one above. 

    What I go by are convincing statements from credible sources such as this statement from the Union Pacific:

    "Union Pacific believes quiet zones compromise the safety of railroad employees, customers, and the general public."

  • Bucyrus
    "Union Pacific believes quiet zones compromise the safety of railroad employees, customers, and the general public."

    I have to agree! Trains would go through Leesville with their horns going at every single crossing no matter how insignificant. Crossing accidents were pretty low. The city council decided that since the accident rate was so low the horns weren't needed so passed an ordinance that no horns would be used unless it was an emergency. Gee, I bet everybody (even the blind man in the corner) can see what's coming. Crossing accidents went up over 60% in a month! The council reversed their ruling quick! In my opinion QUIET ZONES DON'T WORK!!

    Running Bear, Sundown, Louisiana
              Joined June, 2004

    Dr. Frankendiesel aka Scott Running Bear
    Space Mouse for president!
    The spray can Rembrandt
    Running Bear Enterprises
    History Channel Club life member.
    beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam


  • jeffrey-wimberly
    Trains would go through Leesville with their horns going at every single crossing no matter how insignificant. Crossing accidents were pretty low. The city council decided that since the accident rate was so low the horns weren't needed so passed an ordinance that no horns would be used unless it was an emergency. Gee, I bet everybody (even the blind man in the corner) can see what's coming. Crossing accidents went up over 60% in a month! The council reversed their ruling quick!

    I would imagine the RR would have had a good case that since the increase in accidents were due to the actions of the city council, the city increased their liability for the accidents. Hence the rapid reversal. The city of Carlsbad wanted to impose quiet zones on the AT&SF a couple of decades ago, but wanted the AT&SF to assume liability, needless to say, the AT&SF said "no" to the quiet zone.

    - Erik

  • In the news so far, there has been some speculation about whether the quiet zone contributed to the Texas crash.  But I have not seen any news that specifically frames the issue by placing the missing horn segment into the timeline of events leading up to the crash, as I have done here on the forum. 

    The NTSB has merely said they are looking into the role of the quiet zone.  The lawyers have said they are concerned with the length of the warning time being too short; however, that issue is clearly outside of the role of the quiet zone. 

  • Bucyrus

    The NTSB has merely said they are looking into the role of the quiet zone.  The lawyers have said they are concerned with the length of the warning time being too short; however, that issue is clearly outside of the role of the quiet zone. 

    And I would suspect that the UP's lawyers are looking into why the parade organizers didn't get a permit for the parade. I would also suspect that the P's lawyers would be very interested in what instructions were issued to the divers taking part in the parade.

    NCTD and Amtrak slow there trains through crossings where a special event is taking place, but only if they are informed that the event will take place beforehand.

    - Erik

  • (1) Betting the quiet zone at this location is abolished.My 2 Cents

    (2) NTSB is going to have a field day with the accident and the politicians that pushed the current program are about to get their tailfeathers scorched. Those of us that at least were involved in the initial rulemaking hearings saw the inequities of the initial programs. The railroaders, at least where I was, raised serious objections (UP's Public Works Engineer, and for that matter BNSF's, where I was spoke up loudly and often) but were over-ruled by the political hacks in the rulemaking process. The decicision process is weighed far too heavilly in the local, non-railroader's favor. (as in weighed in favor of the un-educated and largely emotional...the makeup of the evaluation/decision teams has to change somehow.)

    Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
  • mudchicken

    (1) Betting the quiet zone at this location is abolished.My 2 Cents

    (2) NTSB is going to have a field day with the accident and the politicians that pushed the current program are about to get their tailfeathers scorched. Those of us that at least were involved in the initial rulemaking hearings saw the inequities of the initial programs. The railroaders, at least where I was, raised serious objections (UP's Public Works Engineer, and for that matter BNSF's, where I was spoke up loudly and often) but were over-ruled by the political hacks in the rulemaking process. The decicision process is weighed far too heavilly in the local, non-railroader's favor. (as in weighed in favor of the un-educated and largely emotional...the makeup of the evaluation/decision teams has to change somehow.)

    Are you saying that it was a mistake to approve this particular quiet zone in Midland, TX, or are you referring to all quiet zones?  If you mean just the one in the case of this crash, what is there about it that should have prevented it from being approved?    

  • I am familiar with the UP's line through Midland. On the South side of the tracks are a refinery and carbon black plant. On the North are I20 and a bazilion oilfield service companies, equipment dealers, machine shops and such. NO ONE lives anywhere near the line. But there are a few hotels on I 20 that probably don't want to upgrade their tissue paper walls and squawk about noise. Let 'em buy some insulation and let's have a safe series of crossings.

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • Bucyrus

    The railroad’s website says: "Union Pacific believes quiet zones compromise the safety of railroad employees, customers, and the general public."

    But Schatz said the absence of the loud warning of an approaching freight train compromises safety.

    "It's known that, if the train does not sound its horn at the crossing, the chance of a crash occurring increases 68 percent,” he said.

    This is misleading.  In a paper http://www.walterpmoore.com/downloads/knowledge/mooreknowledge/QuietZones.pdf, Schatz says:

    "Fortunately, a solution exists that lowers the volume on train noise without compromising crossing safety — the quiet zone, which is a stretch of track along which trains do not routinely sound their horn at the at-grade crossings.  Gated railroad crossings have a statistical risk for a train-vehicle crash. Without a horn being sounded, the crash risk increases 68 percent. [and then it goes on]  To meet quiet zone requirements, transportation engineers must design and implement a variety of safety measures that reduce the risk to a level at or below the risk level associated with train horns.  Various U.S. communities were able to establish quiet zones in the past. But without national standards, in some cases the number of at-grade crashes increased so dramatically that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) had to reinstate the use of train horns. In April 2005, the FRA enacted national uniform rules that enable communities to establish safe quiet zones. If the FRA approves a proposed mitigation strategy, train engineers are directed to only sound their horns in the event of an emergency or imminent safety risk, such as someone walking along the tracks."

    The key is the FRA standards since 2005.