Our view: Metra needs regional plan
Anyone who rides commuter trains with some regularity knows that, sadly, pedestrian fatalities happen.
One of the more comprehensive studies of Metra pedestrian fatalities was conducted by Northwestern University, which examined 260 such deaths over a six-year period between 2004 and 2010. According to that study, nearly half of the deaths were classified as suicides.
The study also concluded that the deaths are more often a suburban issue, with the vast majority of the deaths occurring in the suburbs of Lake, DuPage and Cook counties. Barrington, on the Union Pacific Northwest line that cuts through McHenry County, was among those areas identified as a key trouble spot.
Two pedestrian deaths took place over the weekend on the Northwest line. Saturday’s incident was an apparent suicide between the Harvard and Woodstock stations. A Sunday death in Lake County near Route 14 and Cuba Road still is being investigated.
Thorough investigations must be conducted in all cases and the dignity of the deceased individuals must be preserved as much as possible. But there also should be a better plan to handle the dozens or even hundreds of commuters whose travel is delayed when such a tragedy occurs.
In this past weekend’s deaths, many commuters were trapped on trains for as long as four hours, in some cases with very little information. Although many weekend travel plans seem frivolous when compared with a loss of life, it is a frequent enough issue – an average of one fatality every 10 days according to the Northwestern study – that there should be more efficient ways to handle this one aspect of the tragedies.
Metra’s explanation is that every police or coroner’s jurisdiction along its rail lines responds differently and handles situations differently.
While we appreciate that and the fact that all circumstances aren’t identical, there should be some kind of regional plan coordinated among the various jurisdictions for moving passengers more quickly and efficiently when these tragic events take place.