PUBLICATION

Research BriefResearch Report 10-05

Suicides on Commuter Rail in California: Possible Patterns — A Case Study
(PDF 7.3MB)

Principal Investigator: Jan L. Botha, Ph.D.

ABSTRACT

Suicides on rail systems constitute a significant social concern. Reports in local media, whether in newspapers, television, or radio, have brought awareness to this very sensitive and personal subject. This is also true for the San Francisco Bay Area. These events also cause severe trauma for the train operators and staff of the system as well as disruption and cost to society. The overall objective of this project was to conduct a pilot study to identify possible patterns in suicides associated with urban commuter rail systems in California. The Caltrain commuter rail system in the San Francisco Bay Area was used as the subject system for the pilot study.

The primary intent of the data analysis was to determine whether suicides along the Caltrain tracks exhibited patterns. Pattern detection in this study was conducted primarily on the basis of time and location. Because the data were readily available, the gender factor was also included in the analysis, although this is not a factor that is connected to the rail system. It was concluded that the data did show some patterns for suicides with respect to time and location. Some of the patterns can be explained while the reasons for some are not immediately obvious. However, the patterns in the latter category did not indicate a particularly attractive location or possible source for suicides.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

JAN L. BOTHA, PH.D.

Jan Botha is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at San José State University. He earned a Ph.D. in engineering, with a focus in transportation engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He worked in the field of civil practice for a period of almost ten years and has taught and conducted research in civil engineering as a faculty member for a period of 24 years.

KRISTINA A. ELMASU

Kristina Elmasu is an undergraduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at San José State University.

PHILIP J. LEITZELL

Philip Leitzell is an undergraduate student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at San José State University.

TECHNICAL


Principal Investigators: Jan L. Botha, Ph.D., Kristina A. Elmasu, and Philip J. Leitzell
Published: November 2010
Keywords: Fatalities, railroad safety, rail transportation, suicide