The MTA on Wednesday formalized a partnership with the nation's leading rail safety organization to raise awareness about railroad track dangers, including through a first-of-its-kind advertising campaign.
The respective heads of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the nonprofit Operation Lifesaver Inc. signed the agreement that will see the two groups work together on several rail safety initiatives.
The MTA reached out to the Alexandra, Virginia-based organization after a Metro-North train struck a vehicle at a Valhalla crossing in February, killing the motorist and six train passengers.
"Safety has always been our top priority, but that tragedy motivated us to redouble and triple our efforts," MTA chairman and chief executive Thomas Prendergast said. "And this new partnership is just another step in our mission to put safety at the foundation of every single aspect of our service"
A key component of the partnership will be a $200,000 ad campaign, funded by the MTA, with messages warning the public about the dangers of trespassing on railroad tracks, driving a car through a crossing once the safety gates begin to lower, and rushing through a crossing on foot in order to catch a train.
The ads, which feature the stylized red and green "bubble figures" popularized in the MTA's recent "Courtesy Counts" campaign, will appear on Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains and stations, television, newspapers and, for the first time, 500 movie theater screens.
In the ads, the figures walk or drive into the path of an approaching train as an ominous voice delivers messages such as, "Isn't your life worth the wait?"
Using "geo-targeting," the ads will also appear on some travel websites when users plan a trip that would take them through an MTA railroad crossing.
"You're capturing a lot more than just your passenger base," Operation Lifesaver President and CEO Joyce Rose said of the campaign. "You're really reaching out to your entire community."
The partnership also calls for increased public awareness and educational programs and employee training, stepped-up police enforcement at crossings, and, where necessary, engineering solutions, including changes to address motorists' and train engineers' line of vision at some crossings.