Out of Control Policy Blog

Wham-Bam-Tram makes it an even 100

A sad milestone for Houston's light rail line:

    A sedan and a MetroRail train made local history of sorts at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in the Texas Medical Center. Their meeting was the 100th collision by Metro's count since the 7.5-mile light rail line began test runs in November 2003.

    The accident, in the 6600 block of Fannin, was the 23rd in the medical center segment of the route. Drivers there must navigate through traffic entering and leaving hospital parking garages, and be especially wary on turn lanes that share space with the rail tracks.
    ...
    Not quite 2 years old, the light rail line racked up 36 collisions in its first five months of operation. Then increased safety measures – including four-way red lights in Midtown when the train approached – were adopted in June 2004 at the recommendation of consultants.

    This cut the accident rate per mile to about a fourth of its former level despite a doubling of service ... MetroRail critics, however, note that the collision rate per mile of track remains high compared to light rail systems elsewhere.

Article here.

This site counts the latest accident as # 106.

Some other milestones ...

* Light rail turns 1-year-old.

* The first pedestrian collision.

* Light rail's aborted Super Bowl debut.

This site compares safety among various modes. Turns out that accident-prone light rail isn't just a Houston thing.

It's important to remember that deaths from light rail accidents are almost always from the private auto part of light rail-private auto collisions. Also, as light rail fans point out often, it's typically the motorist who is at fault. Then again, throwing a big train into surface traffic makes it more confusing for motorists to navigate city streets. Plus the human factor is something planners and engineers are supposed to account for.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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