In Los Angeles, California, the installation of a "second train coming" warning system at a light rail transit grade crossing reduced risky behavior of pedestrians and surveyed pedestrians felt that safety was improved.
Date Posted

Second Train Coming Warning Sign Demonstration Projects

Summary Information

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) digest summarizes the results of two demonstration projects concerning second train coming warning signs for light rail transit systems. The demonstrations were conducted in Baltimore Maryland and Los Angeles California and were administered by the Federal Transit Administration. The two demonstrations were designed to increase awareness of and compliance with the conditions of second train coming events using active sign warning systems.

The Los Angeles Metro Blue Line (MBL) demonstration project was carried out to investigate the use of a "second train coming" warning system that uses a train-activated warning sign as a means of reducing the added hazard for pedestrians. The Vernon Avenue highway-railroad intersection (HRI) was chosen as the location for this demonstration project because pedestrian volumes are very high, especially during the morning and evening peak periods.

In this case, the problem that the MBL demonstration project was designed to address concerned how to alert pedestrians and direct their attention to a second train approaching the grade crossing from the opposite direction. Connections to the existing track circuit and train control circuits were designed to implement the logic required to identify two trains at the same time from opposite directions. The warning signs remain dark until they are energized by power applied through an external contact
closure made when two trains are approaching the crossing at the same time. The warning signs are only activated when two or more trains are approaching.

While the system was being designed, pedestrian interviews were conducted at the Vernon Avenue HRI regarding their understanding of and preference for one of the four second train warning signs presented. Two of the signs contained text messages such as "Caution Second Train Approaching" and the other two signs provided graphic displays of a train either on the top track or bottom track and a pedestrian standing in front of the two tracks with an arrow pointing in the direction from which the train is approaching. The pedestrians surveyed preferred graphic signs to the text signs and they overwhelmingly felt that the graphic warning sign they preferred would improve safety at the Vernon Avene crossing.

The warning signs were installed and made operational in June 2000. The effectiveness of the second train warning signs were evaluated using two approaches. First, to collect data for the before and after evaluation, a video camera was installed at the southwest corner of Vernon Avenue and Long Beach Avenue West. This location provided a clear view of the track area for video observation and data collection. Second, an intercept survey of pedestrians at the Vernon Avenue crossing was conducted to guage pedestrian awareness of the second train warning signs and more importantly, understanding of the warning message.


Before-After Analysis
The demonstration found that the warning sign was effective in reducing risky behavior by pedestrians at the Vernon Avenue crossing.
  • The number of pedestrians crossing the train tracks at less than 15 seconds in front of an approaching train was reduced by 14 percent.
  • The number of pedestrians crossing the train tracks at less than six seconds in front of a train entering the crossing was reduced by 32 percent.
  • The number of pedestrians crossing the train tracks at less than four seconds in front of an approaching train was reduced by 73 percent.

Intercept Survey
  • 93 percent of the survey respondents believed that the second train warning signs improved the safety at the Vernon Avenue crossing.