Transportation in 2: Rail Safety Event Draws 700

We organized an event in the sweltering heat to launch a countywide program to increase the public's awareness of rail safety.

Thanks to the more 700 people who joined us for this event to hear important safety messages while enjoying free food and drinks courtesy of numerous food vendors. Adults and kids alike participated in train rides, whimsical face painting and colorful balloons while enjoying snow cones, popcorn, iced tea, fruit drinks and 1,000 kobe beef sliders donated by Ruby's Diner.

A special YouTube drawing announced four lucky people who won some cool prizes donated by sponsors:
1. Inez Burgess of Orange won the grand prize of four Metrolink tickets and a Flip video camera
2. Ron DiMelfi of Anaheim won an iPod and two Metrolink tickets
3. Teri Edwards of Anaheim won a $100 gift card and two Metrolink tickets
4. Irene Colin of Orange won a $50 gift card

But the stars of the show were the newly constructed pedestrian undercrossing and the critically important message of rail safety. Here are some safety tips from the event:

7 Pedestrian Safety Tips
1. Trains can move in either direction at any time.
Look both ways before crossing the tracks.
2. Always expect a train.
Today’s trains are quieter than ever and travel faster than you think.
3. Look in both directions before crossing.
4. Cross tracks ONLY at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings.
5. Never cross when the gates are down.
6. Tracks are for trains only.
Never walk down a track – it’s illegal and dangerous.

7 Steps for Safe Driving near Rail Crossing
1. Approach crossing with care.
Slow down when you see a warning sign.
2. Prepare to stop when the gates begin to come down.
3. When the gate is down, stop your vehicle at least 15 feet from the tracks.
4. Only cross the tracks if you are sure your vehicle can completely clear the crossing.
5. Look in both directions before crossing.
6. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, use a gear that will not require shifting until you cross the track.
7. Keep going once you start, even if lights start to flash or gates come down.

Rail Safety Event Aug. 27 Serves Up Free Fun

A unique feature of the new pedestrian undercrossing at Old Towne Orange is an art installation called, "Orange in Motion." A budget-friendly family event features 1,000 kobe beef sliders from Ruby's Diner, smoothies and other food along with face painting and kid games. And the best part: it's all free.

A new pedestrian undercrossing at the Orange Depot opened this week to passengers. The undercrossing allows passengers safer access to trains without having to cross the railroad tracks.

The city of Orange and OCTA are hosting a community celebration from 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27. OCTA Chairman Peter Buffa and Orange Mayor Carolyn Cavecche and Buena Park Councilman Art Brown will join other dignitaries in officially dedicating the undercrossing at a 5 p.m. special ceremony.

The free community event features 1,000 sliders from Ruby's Diner, snow cones, popcorn, smoothies and other drinks along with face painting, balloon-making, mini-trains for kids and booths on rail safety, transit services and other city services.

Community members may win prizes such an iPod, Flip video camera, train tickets and American Express gift cards.

"Between 1,500 and 2,000 people use that station every day," Director Cavecche said. "Safety is an important issue for Metrolink, OCTA and the city of Orange," who worked together to complete a much-needed safety improvement to historic Old Towne Orange.

Crews constructed the $8 million underpass on budget and delivered the safety enhancement in just over one year.

The city of Orange, OCTA and Metrolink built a new undercrossing connecting two rail platforms at the Orange train depot. Construction began in June 2008 and was completed this week.

Sheriff's Team Helps Keep O.C. Transit Safe

OCTA Security Manager Bruce Gadbois, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, OCTA CEO Will Kempton and Transit Police Chief Lt. Jim Rudy discuss the future of transit security.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchins and Lt. Jim Rudy, chief of OCTA's Transit Security Services, discussed transit security issues with the Orange County Transportation Authority and its new CEO, Will Kempton this week.

The sheriff offered OCTA any assistance that the department could provide "to ensure the safety of Orange County's riders and to keep the transit system safe."

They also discussed vital security services provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Department in its 15-year partnership with OCTA.

When the Sheriff's Department began providing transit security services in 1992, Cathy Zurn, then a sergeant, headed the department. Next month, Capt. Zurn retires from the Sheriff's Department with 30 years of service.

"The Sheriff's Department is proud to serve OCTA over the years," Rudy said. "We're going to continue that effective partnership and collaborative effort."

That effort has led to solutions to enhance safety from roundtables with coach operators and transit police, a successful anti-graffiti program and a strong working relationship that ensures OCTA continues to receive quality service.

In a July 29 incident, Deputy Tony Lim received help from coach operator Tony Aidukas in apprehending a repeat fare-evader. When the fare-evader became violent, Aidukas stepped in to help the deputy. Deputy Mike LaBarbera also assisted in the arrest.

Rudy also shared crime statistics that indicate that OCTA has one of the lowest crime rates in the country in terms of size and boardings.

Kempton thanked the Sheriff's Department for its service to the public and said he looked forward to addressing safety issues and other challenges that will inevitably arise in operating a large transit system.

Listen! Want to learn more about what it takes to keep Orange County among the safest transit system's in the nation? I did. To listen to my interview with the county's top law enforcement officers from my iPhone audioBoo application, click here.

A Sneak Peak of the New Undercrossing in Orange

On my way to work this morning, I stepped off the Metrolink train and was excited to see construction crews putting the final touches on a new pedestrian undercrossing at the Depot in old town Orange.

Irma Hernandez of the city of Orange waved me down and was kind enough to give me a sneak peak of the city's newest transportation amenity tucked in the heart of Orange's historic center.

A unique feature of the pedestrian safety project is an art installation by Laguna Beach artist Marsh Scott called, "Orange in Motion.” Placed along the walls of the undercrossing, two panels pay homage to the city's past with a motif of oranges, leaves and blossoms made of stainless steel interwoven by stainless-steel ribbons imprinted with historic community milestones.

Hernandez also shared with me some other exciting news. The location of the former Cask 'n Cleaver steakhouse -- once a popular spot for rail passengers to grab a drink and a bite to eat before heading home -- will soon have a new tenant, Ruby's Diner.

The mega popular 1940s eatery based in Newport Beach plans to grill up and serve their juicy mini hamburgers called "sliders" at a community celebration to officially dedicate the new undercrossing from 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 27.

All are welcome to enjoy the many family-friendly activities planned for the celebration at the train station, 194 N. Atchison St. off Chapman Avenue near the Orange Plaza.

CEO Will Kempton Hits the O.C. Ground Running

OCTA's new CEO takes a bus ride on his second day to work and compliments the courteous coach operator, the clean bus and the smooth ride.

OCTA's new CEO, Will Kempton, introduced his open-door policy to employees on his first day with a question-and-answer session at the OCTA headquarters.

Employees soon discovered that the new CEO is ready to take the reins and accelerate transportation projects for Orange County, including the high‑speed rail project.

"I am impressed with this organization, the board and its employees," said Kempton during an information session with employees Monday, Aug. 3. "I come to OCTA with my eyes wide open, this agency has a great can-do attitude. The board members are terrific. They are engaged and involved. I am excited about the opportunity to serve in Orange County."

Upon leaving his position at Caltrans, Kempton promised Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger he would deliver a high-speed rail groundbreaking in Orange County before the governor leaves office. Other goals Kempton hopes to accomplish while leading OCTA include building better partnerships with other agencies, increasing efficiency and promoting outstanding customer service.

When Kempton took the bus from Anaheim to the OCTA headquarters on Tuesday morning, Aug. 4, the 4-mile commute took a mere seven minutes. Kempton hopes to buy a home close to a bus route or train station so he can utilize public transportation everyday to and from work. He also took the bus on Thursday, Aug. 6, with an Orange County Register reporter and photographer.

"How can you know what the customers are feeling if you are not out there using the system as well," Kempton said. "Taking the train or bus to work is a great way to get to know our customers and improve our service."

Kempton, an avid jogger for 32 years, shared his walk-around management approach with employees, part of his new leadership style. The former Caltrans director wants OCTA to be a workplace of choice with great customer service.

With an initial three-year contract, Kempton looks forward to serving OCTA and working with the board to deliver transportation solutions for Orange County.

A 7-Minute Ride with New Transportation Chief

Will Kempton, OCTA's CEO, and Gilbert Patterson, a 20-year coach operator, discuss protecting transit funding and making OCTA buses a viable option for the public.

Gilbert Patterson was driving his regular bus route No. 83 that starts in Anaheim and ends in Laguna Hills.

The coach operator spotted two people dressed in business suits at a bus stop on Katella Avenue near the Disney resort in Anaheim Tuesday morning, Aug. 4. One had a computer bag and held a pocket-size video camera. The other had a briefcase and asked if he was on the right bus for the OCTA headquarters.

"Yes, I'll drop you off right in the front," the coach operator of 20 years politely replied, not knowing he was transporting OCTA's new CEO on his first bus ride to work in Orange County.

Will Kempton, 62, the former Caltrans director, took his seat among the other passengers, including a nurse, a service worker and a computer programmer.

Kempton, who has never lived in Southern California, browsed through a map to familiarize himself with his new home. He thumbed through different areas of the county until he heard the coach operator ask, "Are you really the new CEO?"

"Yes, I am."

Kempton and Patterson talked about the quality of the bus, the devastating impact of the national economic recession and state budget crisis on OCTA's bus system and how to make transit more of a travel option for members of the public.

"We've got great drivers with excellent customer focus," Patterson said. "I think you'll like it here."

Kempton replied, "I want to get out to the bases and meet you guys."

"Yes, I'm out of the Garden Grove base," Patterson said.

"Now, did I hear that you've been on the job for 20 years?" Kempton asked. "You look too young to be here for 20 years."

With a chuckle, the 42-year-old resident of southwestern Riverside County responded, "Well, you're too kind."

In just seven minutes, the four-mile bus ride from Anaheim to Orange was over.

And Kempton's second day on the job began with Patterson's parting words for his new CEO: "Welcome aboard."

Transportation in 2: New CEO's First Bus Trip To Work

OCTA's new CEO, Will Kempton, took his first trip to work via an OCTA bus. From the Katella Avenue near the Disney resort area in Anaheim, the former Caltrans chief walked two blocks to a bus stop. He waited for a few minutes and then jumped aboard bus route No. 83 for the nearly 4-mile trip to OCTA headquarters in the city of Orange.

While on the bus, he barely had time to browse a map and talk to Gilbert Patterson, a veteran coach operator, about his plans to protect transit, because the entire trip took only seven minutes.

Transportation in 2: New CEO Talks About Enhancing Transparency at OCTA

The wait for OCTA's new CEO is over. OCTA is welcoming the arrival of former Caltrans Director Will Kempton, who arrived in Orange County on Sunday after departing Sacramento. He started working Monday morning at OCTA headquarters and shared some remarks with OCTA employees Monday afternoon.

He is planning to take an OCTA bus from his temporary residence in Anaheim to work every day. The new CEO is searching for a home in Orange County pending the sale of his house in the Sacramento area.

Kempton, a 35-year veteran of the transportation industry, brings to OCTA a broad understanding of transportation programs and policies that span the ranks of government from local to the federal level.

OCTA's new CEO brings a deep commitment to public service. Prior to joining Caltrans, Kempton served as assistant city manager for the city of Folsom. Before that, he served on the city's parks and recreation commission for eight years.

Kempton, 62, began his career at Caltrans in 1973. He worked in various management positions in finance and in the director's office at Caltrans prior to his appointment as assistant director of legislative and congressional affairs from 1980 to 1985.

One of Kempton's greatest accomplishments was quickly completing the high-profile reopening of a freeway overpass in Oakland after it closed in 2007 for repairs due to a disaster involving a tanker truck.

Thanks to Will Kempton, the new East Span of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge is back on track with completion expected in 2013.

Kempton served as executive director of the Santa Clara County Traffic Authority for seven years. From 1992 to 2002, he was a partner at Smith, Kempton & Watts, a transportation consulting and advocacy firm that focused on major infrastructure programs.

His extensive experience will ensure Orange County remains a leader in providing transportation solutions for its residents.

"This is a very challenging time for every public agency in California. Finding a new CEO for OCTA with Will Kempton's transportation knowledge and experience at a time like this is a grand-slam home run for us and for everyone in Orange County," said OCTA Chairman Peter Buffa. "Will is one of the most respected leaders in transportation in the country, with a rock-solid reputation that will serve us well."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Kempton to run Caltrans and oversee 50,000 lane miles of state highways, an annual budget of nearly $14 billion with $10 billion worth of transportation improvements under construction and approximately 22,000 employees.

"I'm exceptionally proud of what Caltrans has accomplished over the past five years and it's been an honor to serve the people of California under the leadership of Gov. Schwarzenegger," Kempton said in a news release announcing his resignation. "During my tenure at Caltrans, I have worked in partnership with OCTA many times and I am looking forward to the opportunity to join an agency that is on the leading edge of transportation innovation."

'Transportation in 2' Debuts with Rail Safety

My colleague Sarah Swensson, OCTA's community relations specialist, dove into the social media scene just this week. She's now on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

She made this YouTube video, the first of regular spots on transportation news called, "Transportation in 2." She didn't do this to create online buzz about a hip party or hype up self-serving fluff. Instead, Sarah is utilizing the power of social media to talk about something deadly serious: Safety along hundreds of miles of train tracks in Orange County.

With residents and visitors crossing the train tracks to get to beaches, schools or work, this message is particularly important in San Clemente, where Sarah visited a class of elementary school-aged youths on the beach learning about rail safety.

Here are some other train safety tips from Sarah:

Tracks are for trains!
They are private property. Walking, jogging or playing on or near the train tracks is considered trespassing and is illegal.

Trains will not always blow warning horns.
Quiet zones will soon be established in residential and business areas along the tracks, so trains will no longer need to blow their horns.

Warning signs save lives!
Approach all crossings with care and do not ignore any warning signs or gates.
  • As a motorist, never drive around lowered gate
  • As a pedestrian, always stop, look and listen for a train before crossing the tracks at a designated pedestrian crossing
Never try to beat a train!
Trains can take up to half a mile to reach a complete stop. Trains cannot swerve to avoid people or cars and cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.

Be Rail Safe In Your Community
Sarah and the rest of the OCTA team are committed to keeping Orange County safe around train tracks.

If you are interested in scheduling a Be Rail Safe presentation at your school, organization or community, please call (888) 855-RAIL or