Friday, November 27, 2009

At-Grade Backers Stay Silent on Accident Issue

It’s been a few weeks since we spent any time on the issue of at-grade transit safety. Our earlier posts included some graphic visuals about the consequences when at-grade trains meet cars, trucks, buses or pedestrians.

So it’s time for an update from the nation’s newest major rail system – Phoenix’s 20-mile project that opened last December.

News Item, November 5:

A minivan collided with a light rail train Thursday afternoon, near Central and Indian School. Firefighters at last 5 people were injured, some with life threatening injuries. The accident shut down light rail while crews tried to help the injured and clear the accident. Central Avenue had to be shut down for a time while crews cleared the scene. It's unclear at this time who was at fault.

News Item, November 13:

An accident between a light-rail train and a truck Friday has caused a 10- to 25-minute delay in vehicle traffic on eastbound Washington Street, officials said. Three people on the train said they were injured but no one was taken to the hospital, said Sgt. Tommy Thompson, spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department. The crash happened around 10:30 a.m. near First Avenue and Jefferson Street, said Hillary Foose, spokeswoman for Metro Light Rail. The train will continue service, officials said.

Lost in the at-grade advocates’ concern for view planes and whatnot is the very real fact that at-grade trains are involved in accidents at an alarming rate. People are injured, schedules are quickly made invalid and at-grade systems continuously fail the reliability test, as well as the safety test.

So as we head deeper into the holiday season with its message of peace, goodwill and health to all people, let’s remember this central fact about grade-separated trains: They don’t run down pedestrians and aren’t targets for other vehicles.

The at-graders simply ignore this obvious advantage to Honolulu’s planned elevated rail system, and they really ought not do that – especially during the holidays.


PRT Strategies said...

The 22-mile Long Beach <> Los Angeles Metro Blue Line has been involved in over 90 fatalities and 800 accidents since its inception in 1990. And only part of this alignment is shared with streets -- the majority of it is dedicated right-of-way or elevated over the LA River. Honolulu needs to seriously consider the LIABILITY it assumes when running public transit combined with automobile and pedestrian traffic.

But a even better solution solution exists for the city at

Peter said...

yes, at-grade backers have not addressed the at-grade issues. brilliant.

Steven said...

I have to disagree with your comment that "at-grade trains are involved in accidents at an alarming rate". And at grade systems do NOT "continuously fail the reliability test, as well as the safety test". If they were such utter failures no city would build them.

Two accidents in a two week period is not an "alarming rate". There are probably 10 times (if not more) that number of accidents on Phoenix freeways every day. And the system in Phoenix is new; drivers are still becoming accustomed to having to deal with light rail. The accident rate in Boston for example is probably MUCH lower because people have been dealing with streetcars and light rail for 100 years and they know how to behave around them.

I support the building of the Honolulu rail system but using hyperbole and unsubstantiated opinion is a very poor way for you to support your position. However, if the money is available, grade separated is a better choice.

Doug Carlson said...

Steven, I respect your perspective and opinion. But when we're comparing at-grade with above-grade, I don't think it's hyperbole to point out that the latter is virtually immune to collisions while the former is involved in many accidents resulting in many injuries and death.

Maybe you have to be here to appreciate the vitriol at-grade backers are throwing at our grade-separated project. We tend to believe one collision resulting in injuries is one too many.

PRT Strategies said...

After our previous comment, we had another reason to do some research on the new Phoenix LRT system. Since it's opening just about one year ago, it's been involved in 51 accidents -- 51 -- this information is from a local television (Ch. 13? 15?) story that had some tape of the latest incident. Sorry I don't have a link, but I'm sure it can be Googled.

As we're clearly a PRT consulting firm, we can also point to another example. The Morgantown, WV system that's run between the two University of West Virginia campuses since the late 1970s has NEVER had a serious accident or fatality. The system is mostly elevated and runs in a protected, fixed guideway. There's a Morgantown tab on our website.