Ask a Cop – November 2012

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Ilustration: Sean Hennefer

Dear Cop,
I live in what is now called the “River District” of Salt Lake City, on the northwest side of town, completely locked in by train tracks. I say “locked in” because anytime I want to go out, or get home, I run into a road block. Sure, there’s the bridge now on North Temple, but once good ol’ TRAX is finished, there’s another train I have to stop for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so ADHD that I can’t handle waiting, but I don’t think I should have to wait longer than a stop light’s worth of time for a fucking train, and my wait always exceeds that time by about 10 minutes, which, in my world, is the difference between being on-time or unemployed. Here’s what I’ve identified as the problem: 1) There are too many fucking cars on each train—even if it’s going at full speed, when the train is five miles long, it’s going to take forever to get through a crossing. 2) The trains are never going full speed. On almost every occasion, I end up stuck in the middle of a line of cars waiting for a train that’s either inching its way down the track, or sitting completely stopped in the middle of the road. 3) We have airplanes and cars in this day-and-age, why in the name of Henry Ford are we still using trains to transport anything, and why for Wilbur Wright’s sake are they running through town?! Here’s where you come in: I’ve heard that it’s actually illegal for a train to be stopped in the road, and that I have a right to call the cops if that happens. But, this might be one of those “you’re allowed to leave class if your teacher doesn’t show up within 10 minutes” type of rules. I know you’re not an engineer or a lowly TRAX cop, but do you have any insight on this matter?
A trainwreck of emotion,
Thomas the Tank

Now Thomas, Mr. Topham Hat and Percy will be very upset with you baggin’ on trains. That aside, I am in complete agreement with you. In fact, just the other day, I was sitting on 400 S. and Main (eastbound), and the train that came around the corner had so many cars, I died of thirst waiting for it to pass. I came close to just driving into the side of it—I was so angry with how it disrupted my life. And all the vehicles piled up due to the week-long wait, which fucked up the intersection for the next … Well, it’s probably still fucked up a week later.

Now, as I step outside my selfish lifestyle and consider a few things, I’ll admit that all the people I saw on that mile-long train indicate a thousand fewer cars on the road. That means less congestion for us all, even though I’m still pissed at my wait. Also, trains mean less smog and numerous other life improvements—but I’m still selfishly pissed.

I’m no traffic cop, so I tried to research your question on Google. What I discovered is a federal train law (Title 18 USC Section 5319009), which says the local police or transit enforcement should immediately be notified (non-emergency line) if a train ever stops on a public roadway. They will respond and cite the conductor or caboose man for aggravating your day. I suggest you start calling tomorrow. I’m gonna. Word. I also found an Indiana state law (IC 8-6-7.5) that clearly states if your teacher is 10 minutes late, you can leave class with no penalty.

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