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

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.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $250000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project A-44

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Garcia-Colberg, Mariela

  • Performing Organizations:

    Texas A&M Transportation Institute, College Station

    Texas A&M University System
    3135 TAMU
    College Station, TX  United States  77843-3135
  • Principal Investigators:

    Warner, Jeffery

  • Start Date: 20190907
  • Expected Completion Date: 20210401
  • Actual Completion Date: 20210401

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01690651
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project A-44
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Jan 8 2019 6:45AM