Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Train Meets Van in Another At-Grade Rail Collision

Tight squeeze in Phoenix after today's crash.
The relatively small but vocal group of at-grade transit advocates here continues to make a noisy case for Honolulu’s trains to run at ground level. As they do so, we’ll continue our focus on the safety issue. (We've done it before -- two posts below this one on November 27, on October 6 and September 24.)

At-grade trains are nowhere near as safe as elevated systems, and because they inevitably are involved in accidents, they're not as reliable either.

Just today in Phoenix, AZ, a “violent crash” sent at least one person to the hospital and delayed train service. According to the Valley METRO service, this was the 50th such accident involving the system’s trains since it opened for business a year ago. (Another report calls it a "wicked-looking wreck," and this one quotes a firefighter as saying the van's driver is a "lucky lady to be alive" and that delays were expected to last several hours.)

That record – which includes injuries, property damage and delayed service – is something Honolulu will avoid when its elevated project is completed in the next decade.

Safety is one of the major issues that distinguishes grade-separated transit systems from at-grade systems, but there are others, including carrying capacity, frequency of service, speed, and of course, reliability.

We may not be able to tune down the at-grade advocacy noise. What we can do is note that some of that noise is the crunch you hear when trains and vehicles crash together. That’s noise we definitely don’t need in Honolulu.
Another news report says 3 were sent to the hospital.


Hannah Miyamoto said...

That is one strong overhead caternary support pole! :-) Seriously, people should remember that the train crushed that part of the van to about three feet. If the minivan driver was carrying passengers back there, they would be a big human hamburger patty.

Doug Carlson said...

Thanks for your comment, Hannah (and for your letters to the editors supporting Honolulu's rail project). Sadly, it's probably only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured, crippled or killed in one of these at-grade collisions. Here's wishing Phoenix an accident-free holiday season.

Hannah Miyamoto said...

Check out this data from Sep. 2008 on the L.A. Blue Line:

Note that 26 people have died in 18 years in rail-vehicle collisions on the Blue Line. Also 64 pedestrians. 20 suicides.