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Woman killed by Caltrain in Atherton

Original post made on Apr 28, 2008

A woman seen lying on the Caltrain tracks just north of the Atherton station Sunday night was struck and killed by a southbound train, a Caltrain spokeswoman said today.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, April 28, 2008, 9:30 AM

Comments (20)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2008 at 10:14 am

When will Caltrain realise that they must put up better barriers to stop people getting onto the tracks? The expense may be high, but the cost in lives is even higher. If people want to commit suicide, they will have to put in more effort if there is a sensible barrier and if this is just someone who perhaps passed out and fell on the tracks, it would prevent accidents like this.

Caltrain must put up high fences and stop people getting on the tracks in residential areas.

Posted by Tim
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2008 at 10:36 am

I completely agree. We must spend millions of taxpayer money to build a 20 foot tall, electrified fence, and post guards every 100 yards...that might not be enough, every 50 yards. Also, a suicidal person might jump in front of a car...I propose fencing off all roadways in the same manner!!! Yay!!!

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2008 at 10:47 am

How about a catcher on the front of locomotives to deflect anything on the track away from under the wheels?

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2008 at 11:05 am

Fences cant be built at crossings at grade and wont stop people that want to commit suicide by train.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2008 at 1:34 pm

So the only realistic solution is to construct the trains so that jumping in front is not a sure death, or to do a BART with complete grade seperation, and even BART harvests their share of suicides.

Posted by or
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 28, 2008 at 1:45 pm

or be mature enough to admit that a racially genocidal country isnt the greatest society that ever existed on the earth...

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 28, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Its my belief that a suicide will find a way. So if you can prevent a train suicide, you dont really save a life, you just prevent this means and they will go another way. I dont think this is the point to fix the problem, it has to be done before they decide to take their own life. And there will never be a 100% solution to that, some people will always miss any safety net available to them.

As for the train, assuming infinite resources to solve this problem, resoures that I really dont think exist, I would change the system to a light rail type train that can stop quicker, and I would put it below grade. I think that would lower the suicide count, but not eliminate it.

Posted by WilliamR
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 28, 2008 at 7:45 pm


What are the physics of your 'cow-catcher' device for trains? I'm no engineer, but I would think that at any speed faster than a crawl, it would be like kicking a field goal. Given the weight and speed of the train, the person wouldn't just be pushed aside, would they?

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2008 at 9:16 pm

A fighter ejection seat accelerated the pilot from zero to several hundred miles an hour in a distance of 3 feet.
For a start, pick them up instead of forcing them under. Then have them directed into a block of crushable [energy absorbing] Styrofoam or equivalent. Pick them up, accelerate them safely to train speed and cradle them safe until the train stops. Then replace the Styrofoam for 50 bucks, cheaper than scrubbing up the blood. I suspect folk who can design an autonomous auto cold whip up a people catcher over the weekend. Perhaps those worthless folk at Hamilton House for the Terminally Irrelevant could require trains not equipped with a people catcher to be preceded by bodyguards clearing folk from the track.

Posted by KT
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2008 at 11:50 pm

Walter you are so innovative...good idea. But don't you think that different body compositions may have different outcomes? I think this contraption will require lots of testing before implementation.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2008 at 7:19 am

They had people catchers on trolleys a century ago. You can see some of them at the Frisco Trolley Museum. Some one made an institutional decision that catchers were no longer needed. Ask why. In the mean time, challenge engineering students with the problem.

Posted by Mark
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 29, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Yeah, lets spend more public money on a complete non-issue. Awesome.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2008 at 3:25 pm


Necessity is the mother of invention.


Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

In other words, setting the task to engineering students might prove valuable in ways never yet imagined. Give them this task to do and in the doing of it who know what wonders could come out of it including the opening of a student's mind into an area not yet seen.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2008 at 1:29 am

Hey, Marky, I am the one who is supposed to be insensitive to the suffering of others. I have not proposed expending any public money for people catcher research. There is already a science project where students package an egg to survive a drop. How about a competition between Gunn and [Yeah] Paly for the first team to package a watermelon to survive intact a drop from the campamile?
I will pay a prize of $50 [fifty dollars] to the first team that successfully accomplishes such a drop. Then another equal prize to the student who writes the best explanation of the relevance to reducing train deaths.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2008 at 9:21 am


That is a seriously good idea. I suggest you take it up with the schools.

There was an article I read in one of Paly's publications this week about suicide and crossing the train tracks every day. These teens can understand the problem as they are crossing those tracks to get to school (if not themselves, then their friends are).

Posted by Mr. Sensible Solution
a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm

What if . . . all trains were made out of marshmallows? Yaaaaaaaayyyyy! And they could be powered by people sticking their bare feet through the floor and running along, you know . . . like in the Flinstones? Then even if some poor suicidal soul did lay down on the tracks, the worst that could happen if the the Stay-Puft Choo-Choo did hit him or her would be that he or she might get all sticky . . . oh, or maybe be subjected to a bad case of athlete's belly . . .

Posted by Perspective
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Paraphrasing our esteemed Don Rumsfeld, "Suicides Happen!" Which is less disruptive, running onto 101 or lying on the Caltrain tracks? If the goal is 15 minutes of dying fame, cow catchers are only going to push the problem somewhere else.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2008 at 9:38 pm

The purpose of cow catchers on trains is not to save the cow.
What cow catchers do is move the cow to the side, so it does not ride up the front of the train and damage the train or hurt the engineer.

Posted by catch a cow - spare an engineer
a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Speaking of hurting the engineer, there hasn't been much talk about the affect suicides have on train engineers. Out of all the individuals involved - the suicidal person, the passengers of this and subsequent trains who become late, Caltrain personnel, emergency response personnel - the Caltrain engineers bare the heaviest burden. Walter's on the right track if for no other reason than to ease the plight of the engineers.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2008 at 6:13 am

My dad and grandpa were locomotive engineers, dad for the SP and Grandpa for Rock Island. This was the initial reason for my concern.
The cow catchers were indeed to deflect, but the people catchers 100 years ago, examples still extant at the Frisco Trolley Museum, were designed to save lives.

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