Statistics on Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) safety

FEC-Railway-train-wreck-Jupiter-1934_1

“Wreck of Old 427”

“One day during the 1930’s the FEC (which owns All Aboard Florida, which in turn is owned by Fortress Investments) bridge had not been closed when a southbound train came upon it.”
(Source: History Town of Jupiter / Photograph: Henry M Wolf)

It seems pretty obvious, but there is a pretty direct correlation between the number of railroad crossings and crossing accidents. The Acela (Amtrak) example of an attempt to minimize accidents is the best one can do by essentially eliminating crossings and eliminating crossing accidents.

(Except to the extent that on Wednesday, May 27, “Emergency officials confirmed a person was struck by an Amtrak Acela train in Groton, Connecticut. This was the second person struck by a train in Connecticut on Wednesday.) (Source: Eyewitness News / WFSB.com)

Union Pacific (UP) has about 0.6 public crossings per mile, BNSF has about 0.5 per mile and FECR has about 1.7 per mile.

(The BNSF Railway is the second-largest freight railroad in North America, second to the Union Pacific, its primary competitor for western U.S. freight.)

In South Florida, FEC has about 2.7 crossings per mile in the most dense continuous population zone along the route. So if you compare the crossing incident rate per million miles for the three, UP is 2.2, BNSF is 1.7 and FEC is 9.3.

As such, FEC has three times more crossings per mile and four times more accidents at crossings. It is simple: FECR runs through 351 miles of densely populated and developed coastal paradise with an absurd number of at-grade crossings.

So FEC is far more dangerous and has the worst rate per million train miles of any U.S. railroad for many years running.

In 2012, 2013 and 2014 FEC was #1 with the most total reported crossing incidents per train mile of all US railroads . So while some large railroads kill more trespassers and people in crossings, the fact that FECR is only 351 miles long but has 597 public crossings (and 693 if you include private crossings) makes FECR uniquely a greater public safety hazard.

If you just look at the raw numbers of incidents and deaths for any railroad the data does not take into account how many trains they run and how many miles of track they have.

Each railroad reports their yearly “train miles;” so we know the total train miles, even though we do not know the number of trains they have or the number of miles of track. Having 10 trains run 100 miles is the same as having 100 trains running 10 miles. So if we divide an accident number by the train miles we get a rate which we compare to other railroads. Whomever has the highest event per mile (or million miles) number wins. So here are examples for crossing incidents in 2013 to show why FEC is the worst:

Union Pacific had 364 crossing incidents and 165,730,013 train miles = 2.2 incidents per million miles. (They have around 32,000 miles of main line track.)

Amtrak had 133 crossing incidents and 41,509,320 train miles = 2.7 incidents per million miles. (They have about 18,500 miles of main line track.)

FEC had 18 crossing incidents and 1,936,055 train miles = 9.3 incidents per million miles. (They only have a tiny 351 miles of main line track.)

So, FEC only had 18 events, 5% of the number UP had, but they are over four times more dangerous to motorists than Union Pacific at crossings.

There is a term “crossing events,” of which there are three: 1) Total Reported Incidents; 2) Fatalities; and 3) Non-Fatalities. Most crossing events are when a vehicle may be damaged but no-one is injured or killed; but is a reported incident. If someone is injured of killed that is both a reported incident and a fatality; so reported incidents include anything that happens in a crossing whether major or minor.

This is ONLY what happens to the public at large (not on a train), killed or injured by being on the tracks either at crossings or trespassing. The vast majority of all train incidents are those two types, very very very few people riding the trains are killed or injured in train wrecks not on crossings.

The reality of why FEC/All Aboard Florida (AAF) is so dangerous has not been expressed properly. The kinds of accidents such as the Amtrak incident Philadelphia are a fly speck compared to what happens at crossings and with trespassers.

The reason FEC is so very bad is the combination of densely populated region combined with the extraordinary numbers of at-grade crossings in those densely populated areas.

Remember that FEC has almost 600 public crossings in 351 miles. As written above, that is about 1.7 crossings per mile.

Once again, compare that to Union Pacific with 20,288 public crossings in about 32000 miles or 0.6 crossings per mile. Or BNSF which has 16,730 public crossings in 32500 miles or 0.5 crossings per mile.

Adding AAF and expanding FEC will more than triple the numbers of trains, making a terrible safety record even worse.

During the 10 year period 2005 through 2014 there were 16,737 injuries and 7,474 fatalities to train passengers and crews and to the public due to train accidents. Of those not involving railroad employees, only 44 fatalities (0.5%) and 2345 injuries (14%) were to passengers.

The remainder were to “bystanders” caught in road and pedestrian crossing accidents and to “trespassers” on the tracks at the wrong time. In fact, around 98% of fatalities and 81% of injuries due to all rail related events were from causes involving at grade crossings and trespassers.

For the years 2011, 2012 and 2013, for all U.S. railroads, roughly 700, here is the data of crossing events plus two types of trespasser events, calculated by the event per million train miles using actual train miles for each railroad.

All crossing reported events:
2011 FEC #2 behind Wisconsin Central
2012 FEC #1
2013 FEC #1

Crossing fatalities:
2011 FEC #1
2012 FEC #1
2013 FEC #2 behind Southern California Regional Commuter Rail

Crossing injuries:
2011 FEC #6 behind Amtrak, Illinois Central, Northeast Illinois, Wisconsin Central and Kansas City Southern
2012 FEC #3 behind Southern California Regional and Amtrak
2013 FEC #2 behind Southern California Regional

Trespasser fatalities:
2011 FEC #1 by far
2012 FEC #1 by far
2013 FEC #1 by far

Trespasser injuries:
2011 FEC #1 by far
2012 FEC #1 by far
2013 FEC #1 by far

In general for trespassers, FEC is three times or more worse than the #2 railroad. In 2011 FEC was over 5 times worse than the nearest railroad, Amtrak.

One thought on “Statistics on Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) safety

  1. So I assume, if you’re bothered about the accident rate on the current, unupgraded, FEC, you’re in favor of AAF then?

    AAF is going to be upgrading all the crossings on the FEC to “sealed corridor” standards. When these were pioneered by the FRA and NCDOT last decade, the fatality rate basically disappeared. They involve replacing the current dangerously unsafe crossings with proper four quadrant designs, usually also including medians.

    Of course, it would be nice if they didn’t have to. Thing is it’s our governments that decided to cheap out building these unsafe crossings in the first place. Governments that aren’t obsessed with “cutting taxes” (even when the costs of doing so are too high) generally build bridges over railroads.

    But in the meantime, yes, AAF is very good news if you’re worried about crossing safety. It’s a great project, thousands of jobs, millions of cars taken off of I-95 (drastically cutting fatalities there, as well as pollution) and creating better transportation choices for those living in the areas it serves. It deserves your support.

    Like

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