Rail Corridor Trespass Severity Assessment

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has been leading the way among states with the installation of treatments geared towards increasing safety. In recent years, the state has committed to testing applications of equipment at 4-quadrant highway-rail crossing such as microwave and video detection as well as acoustic-based systems capable of providing inputs to the local controller on when to allow the gate arms to descend. More recently, NCDOT has been focused on the issue of trespassing along its railroad right-of-way with the goal of reducing the likelihood of these types of events ever happening in the first place. Current research both at the state and national level has sought to determine the causation of pedestrian-train strikes to other factors with very little success. Recent research by the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) looked at census data paired with actual strikes and train crew surveys. Although this dataset provides a clearer view of where events are more likely to happen, models are still limited in their ability to accurately predict where events are taking place. This project builds on current research efforts to help predict the extent of the rail trespass problem for internal and external activities within NCDOT. The objective of the proposed work is to provide NCDOT with a more complete understanding of the extent of trespassing within the Piedmont corridor for the purposes of better educating the public on the extent of the problem in their locale. This objective will be accomplished by building on ongoing research in this area specific to the Charlotte to Raleigh Corridor. Current model development is limited due to the availability of event-based data which is currently captured using surveys of train crews and the Federal Railroad Administrations (FRA) statistics on pedestrian strikes along this corridor. The primary use of this assessment will be in identification of high trespass locations along the rail corridor which will be used to better inform citizens of the dangers of this behavior. Trespasser strikes alone do not raise significant concerns of the average citizen; however, the frequency and timing of trespass events regardless of a strike should assist in bringing light to the issue of trespassing on NCDOT’s right-of-way.