Palo Alto teams with Caltrain to reduce track suicides

- Caltrain will soon start work on new safety measures aimed at reducing suicides on the tracks, thanks to a partnership with the city of Palo Alto.

On Monday, city officials approved funding to remove vegetation so Caltrain crews can install fencing along the east train corridor for about four miles.

"We do know that the Palo Alto corridor is a hotspot," said city spokeswoman Claudia Keith.

Since October of last year, four teens have leapt in front of speeding Caltrains. The needless deaths follow a cluster of student suicides in 2009 and 2010.

In addition to boosting fencing, Palo Alto will also try something new to prevent future track deaths: a high-tech camera system.

"It hasn't been used on rail before," said Keith. "It's a pilot and we hope that it will prove effective."

Three motion-detection cameras with thermal infrared technology and a range of one mile, will be placed at the Meadow Drive crossing.

They scan up and down the tracks, along the right of way and at intersections and will be programmed to send a call to 911 if a person is detected.

"If someone was on the tracks or if someone was walking back and forth which is sometimes behavior of someone who is thinking about taking their life on the tracks, we would be able to intervene," Keith sad.

The cameras will be tested for 60 days. It would cost the city $172,000 to install them permanently.

Construction on the new fences and installation of the cameras is set to begin in September.

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