Confined to railroad rights of way and tracks, passenger train services are not adaptable to coordination or connection with other modes of travel. The exclusive nature of railroad rights of way and track systems makes them least adaptable to coordination or cooperation with other transportation modes or facilities. Except in central locations where various modes and transportation systems converge, such as at Los Angeles Union Station, railroad rights of way and facilities are exclusively reserved for freight train operations. While Amtrak and Metrolink have established a marginal cooperation with railroads on their tracks and rights of way, other transportation modes and systems do not interface or coordinate with railroads in any positive way.
The greatest barrier to coordination of passenger rail service with existing railroad operations and track systems derives from the nature and technological limitations of existing railroad systems. While the state of railroad design and technology serves their freight distribution mission very reliably, attempts to superimpose passenger services and equipment onto railroad tracks reveal the incompatibility of railroad equipment and its very basic technology with the higher levels of technology required to safely operate passenger services in the freight train environment.
The most dysfunctional and dangerous interface between passenger rail services and other transportation systems is repeatedly manifest in the destructive, and often deadly collisions between passenger trains and motor vehicles, pedestrians and other trains. In spite of efforts to improve safety procedures and equipment of commuter and passenger trains operating on railroad tracks, these systems are inherently limited by the nature and technological antiquity of basic railroad equipment and design.
After apparently determining that Metrolink and Amtrak high-speed rails could not be effectively separated from an at grade street crossing over which some 65 propane tanker trucks pass each day, Metrolink and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority have decided to complete a $6,000,000 safety upgrading project at the most dangerous of their 312 rail crossings. This will do little to mitigate the danger posed by the close proximity of two inherently dangerous conditions. An eighty-mile-per-hour collision at an intersection directly adjacent to such a propane facility would not have to involve a propane tanker truck crossing the train tracks to cause an explosion; when the same train could send any vehicle flying through the facility like a missile.