At-grade trains are routinely involved in accidents. Salt Lake City’s TRAX system had four in October alone, the same once-a-week rate that Phoenix’s at-grade trains racked up in its first year of service – 52 crashes in 52 weeks.
On this past Monday, a TRAX train slammed into a tow truck (TV station video here), seriously injuring the driver after he bypassed lowered crossing gates and drove into the train’s path. Yes, bad thinking (aka human error) is the cause of virtually all of these at-grade train accidents.
All the at-grade crashes shown in the photos in our right-hand column were caused by human error – drivers ignoring crossing barriers, drivers turning into the path of the train, bus drivers running red lights, pedestrians using bad judgment. Take your pick; it happens all the time in cities that for whatever reason built a rail transit system at ground level.
Since that’s not in the cards, maybe just looking at the photographs we’ve posted at the bottom of today’s Yes2Rail post will be enough to drive home the message that while at-grade transit doesn’t impact view planes, it does impact lives and property in devastating and irreversible ways.
Carpenter urged pedestrians to walk defensively by not wearing headphones or text on their mobile phones while near train tracks. “We do recognize we have a responsibility to make our system safe,” he said. “We need to make our crossings safe. We want to improve our standards to protect pedestrians.”
Honolulu’s elevated systems will have no crosswalks, no cross streets, no possibility of running into cars, trucks and buses, and no possibility of being broad-sided by a red-light-running vehicle. Honolulu’s system will even have platform safety screens and doors in its stations that will prevent accidental falls onto the tracks.
With no possibility to interact with vehicles and pedestrians along its 20-mile route, Honolulu rail promises to be one of the safest systems anywhere in the world. Critics who seem consumed by the view-plane issue might well think through the consequences of what they're proposing – trains running at ground level through Chinatown and other Oahu neighborhoods.
So here’s the graphic evidence of just one city’s experience with at-grade rail transit. Honolulu’s news media would be capturing similar scenes if our fast, frequent, reliable and safe elevated rail system were instead built at ground level. Thankfully, that won't happen.