Del Mar residents protest fines for railroad track crossings

Posted at 7:02 PM, Sep 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-15 22:25:38-04

DEL MAR, Calif. - Dozens of people upset about steep fines issued to people who cross the train tracks to get to the beach in Del Mar took their case to the transit agency Thursday afternoon.

The North County Transit District started enforcing the no trespassing law Aug. 1. Since then, sheriff's deputies have issued 120 citations and have given out 410 warnings. Fines can be as high as $500.

A petition with nearly 600 signatures was presented to the North County Transit District on Thursday.

Frank Stonebanks, who is spearheading the movement against the enforcement, said, "If you've been crossing the tracks for 35 years, going surfing down on 6th Street and you're looking both ways, and you cross in one second, looking both ways with your surfboard, we would suggest that the sheriff's deputies focus their energies on the carjackings, break-ins, and not on that."

The petition asks for city of Del Mar to work with the NCTD to cease issuing tickets for crossing the railroad tracks between 4th Street and 11th Street when no train is in sight. It also asks for two or more crossing sites to access the tracks. Right now, the only legal crossing is at 15th Street.

"Let's focus it on where it's really abusive -- people lying down on the tracks for photo ops for their wedding, people running down the center of the tracks with ear buds in and not being responsible and safe," said Stonebanks.

A 10News crew saw many people walking along or crossing the tracks. A couple of girls were also jumping up and down on the tracks taking selfies.

The NCTD says the enforcement is needed to keep people safe. A spokesman said every time a train has to make an emergency stop, it jeopardizes passengers onboard and disrupts the entire schedule.

There have been 19 deaths along the coastal corridor in the last 2 years, but the agency won't say how many are suicides.

"Of the deaths that they cite, the vast majority of those -- probably upwards of 95 percent -- are suicide and no amount of enforcement is going to stop someone who is intent on killing themselves," said Stonebanks.

The NCTD did not make any official ruling Thursday.

The Del Mar City Council is scheduled to take up the issue again in November. During a recent meeting, council members voiced support for the residents and a moratorium on the fines.

Ultimately, the petition calls for the tracks to be removed from the bluffs in the next decade.