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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Federal Railroad Administration

GIS Mapping of Rail Trespass and Suicide

The Volpe Center is using GIS mapping to study where trespass and suicide incidents occur along railroad rights-of-way, which may help the Federal Railroad Administration and rail carriers understand why a particular incident occurred and implement potential countermeasures.

Demographic and Environmental Characteristics of Rail Suicides

For FRA, rail operators, and communities to reduce rail suicides, they need to comprehensively understand the characteristics of such incidents. The U.S. DOT Volpe Center analyzed FRA data to produce a baseline measure of rail trespassing and suicide incidents. This baseline is the foundation for a broader understanding of these incidents in the U.S., and for potential best practices to mitigate these incidents.

Trespasser Intent Determination

Every year, there are approximately 270 to 325 fatalities reported by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that a state coroner or medical examiner determines to be a suicide. However, systems to determine whether a fatality is a suicide can vary by county. That nationwide inconsistency can lead to variability in determinations of intent for rail fatalities in the United States. FRA and the U.S. DOT Volpe Center are working to understand the criteria that might be included in an...

A Safer Way to Access Freight Locomotives

With support from the U.S. DOT SBIR program and the Federal Railroad Administration, GS Engineering developed and tested a system that makes accessing freight locomotives easier and safer for railroad engineers and workers.

Global Railway Alliance for Suicide Prevention

The Federal Railroad Administration worked with U.S. DOT's Volpe Center and the Association of American Railroads to convene a group of international experts who specialize in suicide prevention on the rail system. This group, known as the Global Railway Alliance for Suicide Prevention (GRASP), has met at least twice per year since 2013 to share best practices and research.

Media Reporting of Railway Suicides

Research shows that media reporting of suicides can lead to copycat incidents if journalists do not follow guidelines for responsible reporting. The Federal Railroad Administration and the U.S. DOT Volpe Center are working on strategies to encourage responsible reporting of rail-related suicide incidents.

Working with Carriers on Suicide Countermeasure Pilots

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has sponsored a research effort at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center to work directly with rail carriers to identify, implement, and evaluate appropriate suicide death mitigation strategies. One such evaluation is underway with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), and FRA is discussing other evaluations with stakeholder rail carriers.

Improving Service and Safety at Penn Station in New York City

Penn Station is one of the busiest passenger transportation facilities in the U.S., serving more than 600,000 commuter rail and Amtrak passengers each day. In late March and early April, Penn Station suffered two train derailments within a week of each other. Following both derailments, U.S. DOT’s Volpe Center supported the Federal Railroad Administration by sending mechanical engineer Brian Marquis to take measurements at both sites and conduct a track and equipment data analysis.