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7035Re: Fwd: [UrbanMaglev] "A Streetcar Named Disaster" HoustonReview 2/4 (at-grade LRT vs. ..)

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  • Mike Harrington
    Mar 10, 2004
      There are three kinds of accidents on Houston Metro's new light rail
      line. Turning left where left turns are illegal, turning left from a
      center lane instead of using left turn lanes which share the way with
      the light rail tracks for 50 meters at certain intersections in the
      Texas Medical Center, and motorists running red lights. The injuries
      have so far been minor to the drivers who are invariably ticketed for
      moving violations, since the rail cars are moving at 20 to 35 miles
      per hour, city streetcar speeds. There has been one serious injury
      so far and one which Metro has not prosecuted, a Union Pacific
      Railroad employee who raised the railroad crossing arms on light
      rail's high speed test track, drove his UPRR truck through the Kirby
      Street crossing and promptly had his truck totaled by a fifty ton
      light rail car moving at sixty miles per hour.

      Twenty-five collisions with motorcars since light rail opened on
      January 1 may seem like a lot to someone that lives in comparatively
      small towns like Phoenix or Denver, but Houston has 900
      road "accidents" in a month: fender benders, pedestrian and cyclists
      crushed and horrid multi-vehicle accidents that close down freeways
      and major roads. To find a city with worse drivers, you'd have to go
      to Saudi Arabia or Mexico; roads are dangerous in Houston. It is
      usually only the ones resulting in deaths that get reported, but all
      light rail accidents do, since light rail is Houston's new toy, a
      popular one for transit riders.

      For 1½ miles on the southern end of the light rail line, the LR
      cars
      run along their own private right of way alongside Fannin Street,
      where their speed is a higher, 40 miles per hour. Crossing arms are
      installed at the intersecting streets, and there so far have been no
      motor vehicle collisions along that stretch. But there have been
      motorist fatalities in Dallas and on the Long Beach Line in LA where
      maniacal motorists have driven around the railway crossing arms and
      been killed for their efforts. Dallas runs their light rail system
      on mostly grade-separated abandoned railroad right of ways, with a
      lot of light rail overpasses and a subway. Since the Dallas light
      rail vehicles are going sixty-five miles per hour in some places, it
      can be expected that, although motorist encounters with light rail
      will be less frequent in Dallas than in Houston, there is a greater
      probability of fatalities in Dallas.

      Houston light rail will be running throughout the city, the result of
      the November 4, 2003 bond election when voters approved a MetroRail
      expansion. I attended a public meeting on February 28 for the first
      new line, the northward extension to Northline Mall, 5½ miles from
      downtown. The community meeting was held at Jeff Davis High School
      on Quitman St., in an entirely Hispanic neighborhood which the new
      line will serve. It will be like the existing light rail line,
      almost entirely reserved lanes for light rail in city streets. Metro
      have not yet published their maps or aerial photographs shown at the
      high school, nor did they have any handouts I could scan, but I've
      drawn a somewhat crude map to help give those who are interested in
      transit development an idea of what the line will be like. The near
      northside of downtown Houston is mostly buildings from the 1910's or
      1920's, a lower income neighborhood with heavy bus ridership. On the
      following map, the green portions of the line are the street railway,
      tramline parts. The light rail tracks will leave the street on
      elevated bridges to avoid the Union Pacific Railroad in the south and
      the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad in the north, and those
      viaducts are represented by the blue portions of the line. The brown
      portion in the south is the existing line in downtown Houston:

      http://www.pccmph.com/images/northline.gif

      A community meeting on another new line, the southeast route, through
      an Afro-American neighborhood, will be held on March 30. There are
      quite a few new lines, almost all of them streetcar alignments. The
      following is not Metro's complete rail solutions plan, which extends
      very far into the future, but it is their intended timetable over the
      next twenty years:

      North: UH Downtown to Northline Mal 2008
      Southeast: Dowling to Griggs/610 2009
      Downtown: Connector Bagby to Dowling 2010
      Harrisburg: Dowling to Magnolia Transit Ctr 2010
      Westpark: Wheeler Station to Hillcroft TC 2012
      Uptown: Westpark to Northwest TC (via Galleria) 2014
      US 90A commuter rail Fannin South to Harris County line 2017
      Harrisburg: Magnolia TC to Gulfgate Center 2017
      Sunnyside Branch: Southeast TC to Bellfort 2018
      Katy Corridor: Bagby to Northwest TC 2019
      Sunnyside Branch: Bellfort to Airport Blvd. 2021
      Harrisburg: Gulfgate Ctr to Telephone Rd. 2021
      Southeast: SE TC to Hinman Park & Ride Hobby Airport 2022
      North: Northline to Greenspoint 2023
      North: Greenspoint to Intercontinental Airport 2024



      --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "J.H. Crawford" <mailbox@c...>
      wrote:
      >
      > Hi All,
      >
      > Regarding the Houston issue, notice that nearly all the
      > crashes involve cars turning left.
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