The Tragedy of Trains and Traffic My Story

| 18 May 2015 | 06:06

My heart sinks to read the news bulletin: “Victims of fatal Amtrak crash may see big payoff. The company could pay a record amount to survivors.”

This safest by far land travel mode will be further endangered. Can it survive? What is rarely said, especially to some Republican legislators ever resistant to Amtrak and even mass transit funding, is without theses safe travel modes, there’ll be many more street and highway traffic killings and maimings and more lasting heartache for victims’ loved ones. More street and highway congestion and greenhouse gases. And “the economy” also suffers: U.S. motor vehicle crashes cost in the neighborhood of $2 billion dollars a year. We need to hear about that – and how passenger trains once connected every village and town and fares were affordable. Few power people remember those great traveling days.

Dearly missed are New York Times columnists like Russell Baker and Tom Wicker, who frequently railed against government’s reluctance to adequately support Amtrak and a society increasingly addicted to the fast track.

And I’m deeply indebted to Amtrak for a writers’ discount on many a long-distance train trip, where one not only gets to see the country from the train window. but where different generations and backgrounds talk together – communicate. I hope that still happens and riders will also protest government’s failure to adequately support Amtrak and deplore the horrific recent speed-caused derailment which brutally took the lives of eight passengers, all relatively young with so many to mourn them. There are also lasting physical injuries. Media must hold government’s feet to the fire when it doesn’t put safety first.

The close-to-home traffic tragedies happening every day in New York City need more media coverage. This newspaper is unique in its active concern. Incidentally, The Times public editor needs to hear about that paper’s lack of such coverage ( So I check out the Daily News and today, May 17th, are two stories all traffic safety-concerned people must read. No life lost, thankfully, when a car slammed into a Brooklyn restaurant, but the place of business suffered serious damage, Was the driver speeding? Most likely.

The other story, “Taxi Mayhem,” tells of a 20-year-old woman “clinging to life” after being struck by a yellow SUV cab as it made a right turn into her 57th and 8th Avenue crosswalk, key word, turn. Also noted is the earlier killing of 56-year-old Victor Grant, struck when an SUV jumped the W. 42nd sidewalk after colliding with another car. Speed was likely involved. And there’s more: “This also comes after a 76 year-old tourist, Amelia Sterental, was mowed down by a yellow cab on Madison Avenue as throngs of shopper watched in horror.” The May 10th Daily News’s half-page story “Midtown Cab Hit, Kills Woman, 76” also reveals how this Florida woman visiting New York with her family was struck by the cab making a turn into her 60th Street crosswalk,

Making a turn. How long, dear Lord, how long, until this most deadly to pedestrian crime of traffic becomes a top priority enforcement?

And I repeat, it’s any intersection where vehicles can turn into you – not just those with the highest accident rate. Ninety-year-old Belle Moser was crossing East End with her light when she was struck by a car turning into her crosswalk two years ago. And if she’d not been a neighbor of a friend, I’d not have known about this failure-to-yield-caused traffic tragedy and Moser’s five-week painful stay in New York Hospital’s ICU before she perished.

And, of course, it’s also the speeding – the speeding – the speeding. More soon about that - on every front. Remember, we can overcome if enough of us try.