Commentary: Danger Along the Tracks

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, February 8, 2008

Dan Kysor is blind. But in the pedestrian-friendly downtown Sacramento neighborhood where he lives, Kysor gets along quite well, that is, until he reaches light rail tracks.

Blind pedestrians rely on tactile warning strips - you know, those pebbly yellow markers embedded in the pavement - to alert them when they are entering a danger zone. When they approach light rail tracks, for example.

Incredibly, those warning strips do not exist where they are most needed - on sidewalks leading up to the tracks. Without those warning strips, blind pedestrians have no way of knowing the tracks are there. Because the tracks are flush with the pavement, Kysor can’t feel them. So when warning bells ring to alert him that a train is coming, he can’t tell whether he’s on the tracks or not - or worse, which way to move to get out of harm’s way.

Regional Transit plans to install warning strips on sidewalks next to tracks, but lacks the funds right now. RT has asked the city of Sacramento, which owns the sidewalks, to help, but, so far, the city has refused. It’s broke, too.

Meanwhile, Kysor panics whenever he hears the light rail warning bell. He shouldn’t have to. This is a tragedy just waiting to happen, and we know how to prevent it.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.