Los Angeles, a city where you can pay $25 to careen down a glass-bottomed slide affixed to the exterior of a skyscraper, has decided to add an element of peril to its public transit system.
Well, it’s an element of very much avoidable peril that’s always been there — Metro Los Angeles is just trying to deter you from it in the most wryly disturbing way possible.
It’s almost like we’ve seen the transit authority’s just-released series of animated “Safetyville” PSAs before. There’s the familiar black and yellow color scheme, the stick figures, the cheerfully nonchalant narration. It’s all very retro. Normally in safety-oriented videos like this, the looming danger — in this case, it’s a speeding train or subway car — is dodged at the last minute.
Phew! That was a close call. Thank goodness Jose became alert after allowing himself to become distracted for a moment. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened!
In Safetyville, Jose doesn’t become alert. And the outcome is predicted in cartoonishly gruesome — but never bloody — detail.
In each “Safetyville” clip (there are six in total) we meet a cast of absentminded and impulsive characters that each meet their maker in a fashion that wouldn’t be out of place in a “Final Destination” film: pulverized, decapitated, dismembered, mangled, impaled by a telephone pole. This isn’t to say any of these ill-fated stick figure Angelenos deserved to perish in such a horrific manner.
As Metro LA makes it very loud and clear, these were deaths that could have been easily avoided.
There’s Joan, a young woman so preoccupied with whatever is going on on her phone that she inadvertently crosses the yellow safety line along the subway tracks. Poor Joan.
Mike, reckless daredevil that he is, tries to beat an oncoming train in his car. Not the best idea.
Martin, a Santa Monica-bound surfer dude looking to ride the new extension of the Expo Line, attempts a similar move as Mike but on foot. Again, not the best idea.
And then there’s Jack, a young commuter who does something that I’ve admittedly done many times on the New York Subway system: he runs frantically up to a train as its doors close. Unlike Jack, I’ve yet to be beheaded.
“Safety is our highest priority for Metro riders. These videos are edgy by design because we want these messages to stick,” Metro Board Chair and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, explains to The Source, Metro LA’s in-house public transportation news blog. “A lapse of attention at a rail crossing or unsafe behavior at a station can have dire if not deadly consequences. Let’s all do our part to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.”
The "Safetyville" campaign was directly inspired by “Dumb Ways to Die,” a sequel-spawning rail safety PSA released by Melbourne’s Metro Trains in 2012. While Metro LA certainly has the gallows humor down, Melbourne wins in the catchy jangle pop category.
Although the car-dependent nature of Southern California may lead you to think otherwise, Metro LA operates the third largest public transit system in the United States by ridership with an average of 1.3 million daily riders throughout Los Angeles County using four light rail lines, two subway lines, two rapid transit Metro Liner bus lines and 170 bus lines.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Metro LA was compelled to create the ads after much-anticipated extensions of the Gold (Arcadia to Azusa in the San Gabriel Valley) and Expo (West L.A. to Santa Monica) Lines opened to riders earlier this year in areas of L.A. County where residents are unaccustomed to light rail traffic. That and the fact that the Blue Line, the system's oldest light rail line which runs from Downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach, is one of the, if not the deadliest light-rail lines in the U.S.