Mitigation Strategies for Deterring Trespassing on Transit 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. According to the FTA, a key aspect of the SMS approach is for transit agencies to build on their existing safety foundation to detect and correct safety problems earlier, and to analyze safety data in a holistic manner to ensure resources are applied effectively to mitigate risks. One such risk that the transit industry is facing is related to a growing problem with the number of trespassing events occurring on many transit rail systems throughout the United States. Trespassers are at great risk for being struck and severely hurt or fatally injured due to the speed and frequency of trains in the locations where many of the trespassing events occur. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recognized the dangers associated with rail trespassers and has issued recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) dating back to 1972. An analysis of the National Transit Database (NTD) Safety & Security 40 Form data reveals that between 2008 and 2015, there were nearly 200 major incidents involving trespassers on transit rail lines. The nearly 200 major incidents resulted in 110 fatalities and 80 non-fatal injuries sustained by trespassers, or pedestrians walking along transit rail tracks. Mitigations for denying entry into the right of way at unauthorized locations would help to better address the issue of trespassing. Traditionally, fencing has been the only solution to attempt to mitigate the risks associated with trespassers on rail rights of way. While certain types of fencing can be effective, it is not a viable option in locations where the installation of fencing is cost prohibitive, too difficult to install, or continually get vandalized to the point where repairing it becomes prohibitive due to maintenance resources. The objective of this research is to produce an industry guidebook that includes strategies to reduce the number of trespassing events on railroad rights of way. The guidance will include risk mitigation strategies such as different types of fencing, monitoring systems, design considerations, and strategies to combine risk mitigation efforts. Alternative variations of fencing will be useful for agencies that have challenges associated with repetitive vandalism. Monitoring systems alert train operators of trespassers in the right of way. Design recommendations for new rail systems and recommendations for adapting to land use changes around exiting rail system rights of way when changes create more desire to trespass due to housing and adjacent services, will assist public transit agencies to design out the risk associated with trespassers. This guidance may be useful to designers of new rail systems, existing rail transit agencies, local development firms, local municipalities, and other stakeholder entities that influence the transit system and local land development adjacent to the railroad.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • 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

  • Start Date: 20190318
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

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 7 2019 3:04PM