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Crossing The Railroad Tracks In North County Could Cost You $500

A group of beachgoers along the rail road tracks in Del Mar.  August 10, 2016.
KPBS
A group of beachgoers along the rail road tracks in Del Mar. August 10, 2016.
NCTD Cracks Down On Rail Trespassing
NCTD Cracks Down On Rail Trespassing GUEST: Jaime Becerra, chief of transit enforcement, North County Transit District

People are crossing railroad tracks are in danger of being ticketed. You have to walk five blocks in the opposite direction to actually get to somewhere to get to the beach and walk back. Across the tracks about 6 to 8 times a day. They have to come up with a solution if they are going to do that they need to provide people that lived here with a solution to get across the tracks so they can get to the beach. We heard from Jasper Chow and Jonathan. I spoke with the chief of transit enforcement. Welcome to the program Jaime Becerra. Thank you so much. You knew this wasn't going to be a popular policy why is an CTD cracking down. We have been ticketed -- experiencing a significant increase. With -- were with had to go into an -- and emergency response to people crossing through the trains.. Is not only a hazard to those people that are crossing but also to the people on the trains and crews as well. As the numbers and Chris we found that we needed to take action to address the issue. You have also had fatalities. In the fiscal year of 2016 we had 21 incidents work trains struck vehicles or individuals on the tracks and we had a challenges during those periods. Can you tell me meet -- those incidents were the trains have had to slow down. Those numbers have gone up significantly over the past few months and that is what has really driven our initiative on the rail safety program. What are people not allowed to do. They are not allowed to cross the tracks or walk on the tracks or in the ballast area unless it is at a legitimate crossing. That is the intersections that have signals and lights and horns and bells and crossing arms and if those are not active it's perfectly fine to cross the tracks at those locations. Some people are surprised that they may be subject to a ticket when they are not on the tracks or crossing the tracks but maybe just walking or jogging near them. How far does this extent? It extends 20 feet in both sides of the track. In some communities the area -- the ground is much narrower. So anytime of -- any type of walking on these trails is in violation and is legally trespassing. We have heard that people are surprised, perhaps not terribly pleased about this but this policy has been in the works for some time. I am wondering why is North County transit District doing this now? The laws that have been in effect for many decades. Far longer than I have been here and even before. We have had safety programs were initiatives throughout the years. This year we are really pushing forward. The areas are very well marked and we have signs up there and we have stenciling on the side of the railroad tracks that say no trespassing do not cross. And people will remove the signs and in deference to the law but that does not make a difference. The property is owned by the North County transit District. We warn and advise people continuously. Do you know how many citations have been handed out so far in this new enforcement policy? In the period from the beginning of the year leading up to August 1 we were averaging 10 citations per month as well as about 100 warnings as part of the educational awareness outreach program. However in the short period cents August 1 we have had about 55 citations issued and three times that many warnings. Why do we have warnings in addition to citations? We may have larger groups like one or two people that ring family members are juveniles we will only issue I said Haitian to one member of that group -- a citation to one member of the group. That's how the numbers are a little bit different. People and Delmar and coastal communities happened crossing tracks for years. We spoke with a man that believes there had to be a better answer. The city of Delmar and the coastal cities need to figure out a way to work with the NCTD and find a solution to the problem. We don't want people getting hurt on the tracks obviously. There are people that abuse it but most people just know how to deal with train tracks. It's not hard. That was a Delmar resident. Has the NCTD looked at alternatives such as installing barriers or a fence. Most certainly in dealing with safety issues with look at three E. The 3E's stand for engineering where we can look at installing barricades. We could install fences and walls and we can work with the communities to build underpasses and overpasses. This is an ongoing discomfort -- discussion with many of our communities that are partners in this effort as well. We look at the second he which is education and awareness which we are constantly engaged in. And the last one deals with the behavior of the individual is the enforcement side where we actually have to go out and talk to people and issue warnings and citations. It is the most intense part of the 3E effort. It is quite expensive to the North County transit District to do that. We did so much more prefer to do the engineering passive type of addressing this type of situation but of course this costs a lot of money on the front end and we need to have the partnership of the communities and we are working with the moving towards that. I have been speaking with Jaime Becerra the transit districts chief of transit enforcement thank you so much. Thank you.

There's a new hazard involved in crossing the railroad tracks in San Diego's North County coastal communities and it's not just the possibility of being hit by a train.

Now, surfers, joggers and beach-goers who walk across the railroad tracks are at risk of being fined up to $500.

The North County Transit District started stepping up enforcement of railroad trespassers on Aug. 1 due to safety concerns.

NCTD decided to begin cracking down because of an increase in the number of times trains have had to make emergency stops because someone was on the tracks, said Jaime Becerra, NCTD's chief of transit enforcement. He said on average, there are three emergency stops a day.

From the beginning of 2016 to Aug. 1, the district has given out on average 10 citations a month, plus 100 warnings, he said. In the month of August so far, 55 citations have been given out, plus 150 warnings.

Over the past year, there have been 21 instances where pedestrians or drivers have been struck by a train between Oceanside and San Diego. Eight were fatal, Becerra said.

People are not allowed to cross the tracks anywhere except at a crossing with signals and bells, he said. Walkers and joggers also can not go within 20 feet of the tracks, even if a trail passes closer, he said.

While these laws have been in effect for decades, the transit district is taking a "low tolerance approach" this year, he said.