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Monday, January 15, 2007

Tragedy by design

The news article in the Globe today tells of a 15 year old boy killed at the Mansfield train station by an Acela train traveling over 100 miles per hour.

The hue and cry over the tragedy is covered. I won't repeat those details here. You can click through to read the full story for yourself.

I would pose that the real tragedy is in the design of the station to begin with. I have had some opportunity to travel from Mansfield and it is one of those typically found in this area. Frustrating in that the long way is the only approved (i.e. safe way).

First case in point, look at the picture at the top of the article. (If you haven't already clicked through, sorry but you should at this point. I'll wait for you to come back).

The fence dividing the inbound and outbound tracks is only about 4 foot high. Tall enough for one of the investigators to comfortably rest against it. The fence is secure and reinforced (likely to help keep its form during the snowy winters that are normally here). There are signs on it periodically alerting of danger, do not cross.

But I think this is where the design fails. If the fence was truly not to be climbed, it would be 10-15 foot tall. Most healthy folks can scale this fence. A 15 year old would hardly stop to think about it. Put a bigger fence there, then that changes the options. You would need to consider taking the long way around. It is a long way around (Globe graphic). You need to walk along one side towards RT 106, to go down the stairway and under the tracks to the other side.

Certainly not an intuitive move. Certainly not as the "crow flies".

The speed of the train would be less of a factor if the station were built to focus on moving people and not focused on moving trains. We would all be safer.

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