Fwd: [UrbanMaglev] "A Streetcar Named Disaster" HoustonReview 2/4 (at-grade LRT vs. ..)
- An interesting article about problems met with Houston's try at
introducing light rail while keeping automobile traffic in the same
right of way. I wonder if there have been any difficulties like this
elsewhere? This seems to be a good argument for grade separation, and
it will become especially important to take this into account when the
time eventually comes (I assume) that more public transportation starts
to be phased in while many people are still driving around.
One plausible answer, assuming that many cities will choose at-level
streetcars rather than go to the extra expense of elevated or
underground metro lines, would be to ban automobile traffic entirely
from streets with streetcar lines as they are phased in. Perhaps by
that time, the energy crisis will have started to change people's
belief in private cars in cities?
Begin forwarded message:
> From: MagNews <clew@...>[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> Date: March 8, 2004 12:00:23 PM EST
> To: UrbanMaglev@yahoogroups.com
> Subject: [UrbanMaglev] "A Streetcar Named Disaster" HoustonReview 2/4
> (at-grade LRT vs. ..)
> Reply-To: UrbanMaglev@yahoogroups.com
> ".. Affectionately dubbed the �Wham-Bam-Tram� by local conservative
> activists, light rail has lived up to its nickname. .. While transit
> backers dismiss light rail�s shortcomings as temporary adaptation
> problems for commuters, the issue is substantially more fundamental.
> MetroRail�s tribulations derive almost entirely from an inherent yet
> neglected system design flaw: the operation of trains in mixed traffic.
> A Streetcar Named Disaster
> By Phil Magness
> After witnessing a weekend of self-congratulatory festivities marking
> the January 1st debut of Houston�s MetroRail transit system, the
> hometown newspaper�s editorial board could hardly contain its
> exuberance. �Viewed from any angle,� opined the Houston Chronicle, the
> kickoff celebrations were a sure �sign of good things to come.� To the
> board, itself a merciless campaigner for rail, the roughly 15,000
> people in attendance suggested that a �large helping of crow� was in
> order for transit critics. Reports from Houston spread quickly causing
> the Arizona Republic�s editorial page to gloat �critics rail at light
> rail to no avail.� After all, what worked for Houston would surely also
> work for Phoenix. An Austin-based advocacy group went even further,
> hailing their favored transit mode�s �enthusiastic acceptance by the
> public� though also neglecting the role free tickets played in
> attracting inaugural weekend riders.
> Declarations of this sort typified proponent reactions to the
> controversial �light rail� commuter train � a system that recently
> consumed $340 million of Houston�s congestion relief funds. Despite the
> laudatory responses, an ever-growing volume of evidence plays testament
> to a certainty for Houston: MetroRail may quickly become an anchor
> around the neck of the city�s transportation system rather than the
> traffic relief measure of its original intent.
> The problems to date are widespread and growing. Before it even opened
> MetroRail already boasted the dubious record of five automobile-train
> collisions in barely a month of test runs, thus relegating transit
> police to blocking duty along the tracks for opening weekend lest
> another accident replace rail itself as the top evening news story.
> Constant technical glitches and another ten automobile-train collisions
> since service began have placed MetroRail on target for becoming the
> most accident-prone transit system in the nation.
> Far from attaining public acceptance, the flow of passengers at the
> rail stations came to a crashing halt on Monday morning after the
> festivities. The first paying train departed with only a crew of
> reporters, did not gain any passengers until the third station, and
> remained sparsely ridden for the entire day. Aside from a brief
> Super-Bowl induced rider surge in early February, not much has changed
> since day one of paid services. Transit officials recently reported
> that the main parking lot serving their system has averaged only
> one-fifth capacity on workdays � a figure that is similarly reflected
> in dismal ridership totals for its first month of operation.
> According to official reports from MetroRail, a total of 558,257
> passengers road on the train during the month of January. Though rail
> proponents claimed the figures were proof of �success,� a closer
> examination reveals that those claims are premature. The figures for
> January include over 15,000 boardings during the inaugural weekend when
> free tickets provided an incentive for curious passengers. They also
> include inflated numbers from pre-Super Bowl festivities on January
> 29th through 31st when light rail carried about 120,000 passengers for
> game related events. Accounting for those two extraneous events that
> induced non-routine ridership surges and the actual monthly boarding
> figure would be something closer to 425,000 total or about 14,000 round
> trips (and thus only 7,000 passengers) a day. Either way, MetroRail�s
> current ridership figures, if sustained, put it on pace to carry
> somewhere between 5.1 and 6.7 million passengers for 2004 � only half
> of the 10 to 13 million originally estimated by some rail proponents.
> Even worse, MetroRail�s $23.5 million annual operating costs indicate
> that even with the overly optimistic 13 million passenger figure the
> system will still be $10 million in the hole at the current $1 fare.
> Barring a quick turnaround from the current pace, that figure may to
> fall over $18 million short from simply recovering its annual operating
> costs at the fare box, all to be taken from public monies.
> As if its financial boondoggle status were not bad enough, light rail�s
> disastrous safety record has become something of a legend in Houston.
> Affectionately dubbed the �Wham-Bam-Tram� by local conservative
> activists, light rail has lived up to its nickname. A summary of the
> collisions and glitches to date reveals the extent of this growing
> CRASH 1: November 19, 2003 � Light rail is involved in its first
> accident, hitting the fender of an SUV as it turned across the tracks.
> CRASH 2: December 16, 2003 � Train hits the bumper of a car as it pulls
> out of a driveway on Fannin at Southmore.
> CRASH 3: December 19, 2003 � MetroRail collides with a pickup truck
> turning left from Main at Alabama. A light rail crash safety drill was
> occurring a few blocks away at the time of the accident.
> CRASH 4: December 20, 2003 � Light rail crashes into a Ford Explorer
> making a left turn from Fannin at John Freeman in the Medical Center.
> CRASH 5: December 30, 2003 � MetroRail collides with a passenger car
> exiting a private driveway along the tracks on Fannin.
> CRASH 6: January 9, 2004 � Light rail collides with a passenger car
> turning left at Fannin and Binz. The driver was apparently confused
> over the difficult to read lighted no-turn signs along the route.
> CRASH 7: January 19, 2004 � A light rail train collides with a suburban
> attempting to make a left turn off of Fannin at Dryden. The
> intersection contains notoriously confusing turning lane signs switch
> to no-turn signs when a train is present.
> CRASH 8: January 23, 2004 � A light rail train obliterates a Union
> Pacific maintenance truck and severely injures its driver on a test
> track that runs parallel to the UP track. The train involved in the
> collision was also traveling at approximately 60 mph on a �test� run �
> a speed not even remotely approached during the stop-and-go operations
> of street use that average just over 12 mph.
> CRASH 9: January 26, 2004 � MetroRail collides with a passenger car
> attempting to make a left turn off of Fannin at Southmore in the Museum
> CRASH 10: January 27, 2004 � Light rail hits a Toyota minivan
> attempting to turn left on McGowen from Main.
> CRASH 11: February 5, 2004 � A train collides with an automobile
> turning left off of Fannin at Dryden in the Medical Center. This
> intersection is the sight of an earlier accident where confusing
> lighted no-turn signs may have contributed to the crash.
> CRASH 12: February 15, 2004 � MetroRail hits a flatbed truck alleged to
> have run a light while crossing Pierce near downtown.
> CRASH 13: February 19, 2004 � Light rail involved in an accident with
> an armored car pulling out of a bank parking lot near Fannin and
> CRASH 14: February 21, 2004 � Train collides with a van turning left at
> Fannin and Montrose.
> CRASH 15: February 24, 2004 � Train crashes into a car turning left at
> Fannin and Dryden � the third collision to date near this intersection.
> Electricity Failure 1: January 4, 2004 � A power failure near Reliant
> Park shuts down the light rail system in its vicinity forcing riders to
> leave the stalled trains through emergency exits after 18 minutes
> without air conditioning. The power failure exposed another design flaw
> in the system by shutting down crossing gates along roadways for the
> duration of the outage. The result: when MetroRail ceases to move so
> does everyone else in a car nearby. A frustrated driver and a Metro bus
> reportedly broke through two of the gates during the outage.
> Electricity Failure 2: January 17, 2004 � A small fire at a power
> station shuts down a lengthy segment of the light rail system for over
> an hour and a half. Stranded passengers had to be carried by bus to
> their destinations
> Electricity Failure 3: February 6, 2004 � A delivery truck reportedly
> clipped one of the relatively low-hanging high voltage trolley cables
> between the Wheeler and Rice stations. Light rail obtains its power
> from a modern day version of a �troller� � a device invented in the
> 1880�s that makes electrical contact with open wires suspended
> overhead. The accident happened at about 9:30 AM and took until 1:30 PM
> to be repaired. Reports from the scene indicate that it may have taken
> up to half an hour for repair crews to respond to the downed wire.
> Super Bowl Shutdown: January 29-February 1, 2004 � Light rail was
> originally sold to Houstonians under the claim that it would help carry
> passengers with ease at major sporting events such as the Super Bowl,
> yet during the event�s festivities many streets proved too crowded to
> safely operate the trains. As a result transit officials shut down
> large segments of the light rail line into downtown, leaving thousands
> without an easy access to transportation. Persons trying to enter and
> exit downtown had to wait up to two hours despite the trip�s length of
> only a few miles.
> While transit backers dismiss light rail�s shortcomings as temporary
> adaptation problems for commuters, the issue is substantially more
> fundamental. MetroRail�s tribulations derive almost entirely from an
> inherent yet neglected system design flaw: the operation of trains in
> mixed traffic. Whereas popular transit systems such as the Washington
> D.C. METRO use grade-separated tracks that do not intersect vehicular
> lanes, MetroRail runs in the middle of a major thoroughfare along side
> and in between automobiles. This design is something akin to placing
> 21st century bullet trains on 19th century trolley tracks and
> attempting to operate them in a pattern that requires stopping every
> six blocks.
> As with streetcars, MetroRail�s constant stopping prevents trains from
> completing a journey in a reasonably efficient time. The current 7.5
> mile journey takes 35 minutes at an average of 12.8 mph, or roughly the
> top speed of a Segway Scooter. Three Chronicle reporters recently
> experienced this flaw the hard way by timing the train against busses
> and automobiles. MetroRail runs 50% slower than both alternatives and
> also costs more when parking and fares are considered � all facts that
> leave little room for wonder about the system�s dismal ridership.
> The fifteen accidents to date stem in large part from automobile driver
> error yet one cannot help but question that their frequency, and thus
> some culpability, results from a common sense failure in rail design.
> This circumstance may be demonstrated through a simple comparison. Few
> will deny that a cliff-side highway with no guardrails poses a danger
> in its own right to drivers who steer off the road and into the ocean
> below. Though the error in steering is itself a fault of the driver,
> the absence of a cliff-side guardrail provides a substantial
> contributing factor to the accident. The proximate cause for each
> accident is a negligent design that makes that particular stretch of
> road accident-prone and an abnormally high frequency of accidents would
> provide more than ample testament to that design flaw.
> Houston�s at-grade light rail exhibits its own abnormally high accident
> rate and that alone, even with driver error, is cause to seriously
> reexamine the system�s design. Though light rail supporters, such as
> the militant smart growthers at Austin�s �Light Rail Now!,� tend to
> dismiss their favored transit system�s inherent hazard to traffic as
> the product of Houston having the �nation�s worst drivers� (after all,
> no wrong could ever be committed by a transit system in their minds),
> the real issue at hand is once again the fundamentally bad idea behind
> light rail itself: at-grade mixed traffic operations. Putting a full
> sized passenger train in the middle of vehicular traffic makes about as
> much sense as installing a lane of vehicular traffic down the toy aisle
> at Wal-Mart. It has about as much logic to it as trying to land
> passenger jetliners on an interstate or conducting navy war exercises
> at a popular snorkeling spot. All of these situations create inherently
> dangerous conditions for users who are patently ill-suited for
> simultaneous interactions. Since the problem stems from design, simply
> writing tickets every time somebody gets hurt and simply sticking an
> oversized deer-whistle-for-humans on the front of a train will never
> lessen accident frequency.
> Similar problems will continue to impede the success of MetroRail so
> long as transit advocates refuse to reevaluate their system�s design.
> At the unfortunate insistence of these same persons and their corporate
> cronies who profit from transit construction contracts, Houston voters
> narrowly approved a substantial light rail expansion before having an
> opportunity to see phase one in action. An opportunity, though small,
> presently exists to achieve this end: separate the grade for any and
> all expansions of MetroRail and take passenger trains off the streets.
> Instead of bestowing unearned and premature declarations of success on
> the new system, officials must come to grip with the fact that
> fundamental flaws exist and correct for them before a 7.5 mile
> boondoggle in downtown becomes a 60 mile folly for the entire Houston
> The Houston Review - A conservative student monthly serving the Houston
> � Copyright The Texas Review Society
> Yahoo! Groups Links
- At 02:26 PM 9/03/2004, Chris Miller wrote:
>An interesting article about problems met with Houston's try atThat is a rather odd question - of course the answer is yes.. Why do
>introducing light rail while keeping automobile traffic in the same
>right of way. I wonder if there have been any difficulties like this
Americans always think that their attempt at something is the first time it
has ever been tried in the world?
Here in Melbourne, there are an average of three crashes a day between
Trams (Streetcars) and Motorists getting in their way. Our network
involves about 200km (125mi) of electrified on street running, of which
about 800 yards (Bourke Street Mall) is isolated from motor traffic, the
rest of the on street running is mixed with traffic or is in painted median
fairways. There are about 500 trams in the fleet.
>This seems to be a good argument for grade separation, andNope.. It's a good argument for slapping some perspective into
>it will become especially important to take this into account when the
>time eventually comes (I assume) that more public transportation starts
>to be phased in while many people are still driving around.
people.. Tram drivers are professionals, trams always have right of way
over motorists, and motorists need to learn to appreciate that either
through education or through experience when they have to collect their
cars from crash repair shops after a few days without it.
Also, if all those people on the Trams had been driving or on a bus instead
and the trams were not there, how many additional car-car or car-bus
crashes would have happened?
On 8-Mar-04, at 11:05 PM, Peter Cook wrote:
> At 02:26 PM 9/03/2004, Chris Miller wrote:
>> An interesting article about problems met with Houston's try at
>> introducing light rail while keeping automobile traffic in the same
>> right of way. I wonder if there have been any difficulties like this
> That is a rather odd question - of course the answer is yes.. Why do
> Americans always think that their attempt at something is the first
> time it
> has ever been tried in the world?
Actually, I'm Canadian and just happen to be living in Washington DC
now. I was rather stung by your reaction to my post. I took the trouble
to cross-post it to the Carfree Cities list because it is of obvious
interest; getting this kind of a reaction (in this case the unmerited
and inaccurate stereotyping of Americans) can be enough to discourage a
person from participating any further in a discussion group like this.
I posed the question out of curiosity, not knowing how much of a
problem auto-tramway collisions are elsewhere. When I was in Prague,
for example, it seemed to me that this was no problem. Nor, as far as I
know, in Amsterdam. My impressions are certainly superficial given my
very short stays in either place, and I was wondering how well at-grade
trams coexist with other street traffic (whether pedestrian,
human-powered, or automobile) in various places around the world. The
problem will always come up as long as there is coexistence between
public transit and some sort of individual locomotion on the same right
of way. It doesn't matter whether the individual locomotion is by foot,
bike, rollerblade, wheelchair or automobile; you still have to worry
about the problem of collisions. (It's worth remembering that Antoni
Gaudi, the famous Catalan architect, died when he was hit by a
Barcelona streetcar while leaving the worksite of the Sagrada Familia.)
> Here in Melbourne, there are an average of three crashes a day between
> Trams (Streetcars) and Motorists getting in their way. Our network
> involves about 200km (125mi) of electrified on street running, of which
> about 800 yards (Bourke Street Mall) is isolated from motor traffic,
> rest of the on street running is mixed with traffic or is in painted
> fairways. There are about 500 trams in the fleet.
>> This seems to be a good argument for grade separation, and
>> it will become especially important to take this into account when the
>> time eventually comes (I assume) that more public transportation
>> to be phased in while many people are still driving around.
> Nope.. It's a good argument for slapping some perspective into
> people.. Tram drivers are professionals, trams always have right of
> over motorists, and motorists need to learn to appreciate that either
> through education or through experience when they have to collect their
> cars from crash repair shops after a few days without it.
Much as I would agree with your point of view about peoples'
perspective, this kind of gives up on the imperative to design the
transit system in a way that minimises problems like this. When you
design something, you always have to take into account the fact that
many people are going to act irrationally: pointing out that they are
irrational after the fact isn't going to make your problems go away.
(Think of subway suicides, which regularly hold up the Montreal Metro:
why not do like Paris does in newer stations, i.e. install glass walls
with automated sliding doors on the edge of the platform?) What you
need to do is to anticipate difficulties, on the basis of other
people's experience (Houston in this case) and try and design a better
alternative that avoids interruptions because of occasional irrational
behaviour (due to absent-mindedness, tiredness, mental distress,
whatever) by some people.
> Also, if all those people on the Trams had been driving or on a bus
> and the trams were not there, how many additional car-car or car-bus
> crashes would have happened?
Interesting question: I *suspect* that there might be fewer simply
based on my experience as an urban cyclist. It is astounding how many
drivers seem not to twig on to the fact that something that is not a
gas-powered vehicle is also part of traffic and needs to be taken into
account. My *feeling* is that some drivers would likely identify buses,
unlike trams and such, as "real" street traffic to be taken into
account. Perhaps part of the problem with the Houston Metrorail is that
it is on a marked-off corridor distinct from the street. Since drivers
are basically worried about the street, i.e. the paved areas where they
can navigate, perhaps there is something about the design of the
Houston system that somehow encourages drivers to ignore it as a
transportation corridor, since they don't perceive it as part of the
street as such. As I have already said, this is a major issue to take
into account when cities inevitably start phasing in more and more (non
petrochemical based) public transit lines in the coming decades.
A Canadian in Washington DC, USA
- Hi All,
Regarding the Houston issue, notice that nearly all the
crashes involve cars turning left. The only way to tackle
this problem is to forbid all left turns across the
tracks, which, I believe, run in a center reservation.
Drivers are literally getting blind-sided, and the
signalling is always a bit confusing in the case of
left-turn-on-arrow-only. Colorblind drivers may be
seeing a red arrow and thinking it's green. (I know
there aren't supposed to BE colorblind drivers, but
I'll bet there are plenty in America, where it's drive
Drivers would get used to the idea that you can NEVER
turn left across the tram tracks. Instead, they will
have to go around the block and approach straight on,
when they will be able to cope with the standard traffic
signal, which should see them safely across the tracsk.
Their sight lines are good and mirrors aren't needed.
If this doesn't work, then they will have to physically
block all crossing traffic and provide some over- or
underpasses to get cars across the tracks.
Remember that in Zurich, the decision was made to get
cars off the streets where they were interfering with
the trams. Gotta get your priorities straight. This is
going to be difficult in Houston.
-- ### --
J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
- A couple of points worth noting:
1. A "conservative student monthly serving the Houston area" mocking
public transportation? I knew that this was an article written by some
rightwing outfit before I got to the bottom of the article, because I
already recognize the snide, triumphant tone. If it's like comparable
articles written by anti-transit types in Portland and Minneapolis, I
would be cautious about accepting its claims at face value. The
anti-transit crowd in both cities routinely lies, exaggerates, and
leaves out inconvenient facts.
For example, a local "taxpayers'" group commented on the Twin Cities
transit strike and claimed that since the traffic was no more jammed
than usual, transit was an unnecessary drain on the "taxpayers'"
pockets. This claim appeared on the front page of the Minneapolis
Star-Tribune on Sunday. Fortunately, the following day, the paper
carried a story about non-drivers who were being forced to spend $10 a
day on taxis or walk several miles or beg rides or simply stay home and
miss out on jobs, medical appointments, and other necessities of life.
The article concluded that the non-drivers could cope for a few days,
but that an extended strike would cause real pain.
2. This is reminiscent of the Portland anti-transit crowd crowing about
"killer trolleys" after five pedestrians were killed on the westside
MAX line shortly after it opened. The problem was not that the MAX was
especially lethal to pedestrians but that people couldn't get it
through their heads that one has to look both ways before crossing a
train track. In one case, a drunk had passed out on the tracks. There
were always fender benders between the MAX and cars, and I witnessed
some of them. In every case that I saw, they were the fault of the
3. The claim that light rail reduces traffic congestion has come back
to bite transit advocates. It clearly doesn't do that, as a visit to
Tokyo will prove. What it does do is allow people to *opt out* of
congestion. Publicity for light rail lines should stress this notion.
4. Is ridership really that low? Why has light rail been so successful
in Dallas? Are the Houston lines in the wrong places, is the system
poorly managed, has any PR been done? Is this a case of
passive-aggressively mismanaging something to prove that "it doesn't
Just some things to think about.
Karen Sand ness
- Thank you Karen for pointing out that the author of the story was "A
conservative student monthly serving the Houston area." I think that
may have something to do with Peter's reaction. I have to admit
after reading the article I had to get up and take a short walk to
cool off. The tone of the article has a "see, told ya it wouldn't
work" feeling to it that reflects poorly on both Texans and Americans
(from the US sorry I know Canada, Mexico and the rest of two
continents have the right to be called Americans, but that is another
issue). It is the article not you as the poster is pushing some
One thing with the article that really burned me up was the whining
about $340 million. That is NOT a lot of money for a transportation
improvement project, but when you use a figure like, without putting
it in perspective it seems like a lot. I did a quick query of
Pennsylvania's department of transportation's constructions projects
database (I have access to this at work). Most projects for standard
road repair are about between $10 and $20 million that is just for
fixing pot-wholes, resurfacing, etc. And there are three projects
this year over $340 million.
I am sure there was a design option to put the light-rail on its own
right-of-way, but that option would have been much more expensive and
people like the one who wrote this article would have been the ones
to shoot it down.
As to a discussion of safety and light-rail sharing right-of-ways,
Philadelphia has continuously operated trolleys on the street for
about a hundred years now. A collision is a very usual event I can
only recall one, about four years ago. Another good example is the
streetcar in New Orleans. In parts in operates in the same right-of-
way as cars (including going around Lee Circle) and then operates on
the median of a high traffic roads where car traffic makes left turn
across the rail (often without the aid of a signal). While living
there for three years I cannot remember any collisions. In
conclusion, I do think that it is something people need to learn how
to co-exist with, not as both article seem to be saying - a design
fault of the system. Neither the New Orleans or Philadelphia systems
have good signage (some cases none) at crossing. You just grow up
knowing that the streetcar can't stop quickly and regardless if you
hit it or it hits you it is your fault.
- At 04:14 PM 9/03/2004, Chris Miller wrote:
> >> An interesting article about problems met with Houston's try atMy apologies. I probably got out of bed on the wrong side yesterday.
> >> introducing light rail while keeping automobile traffic in the same
> >> right of way. I wonder if there have been any difficulties like this
> >> elsewhere?
> > That is a rather odd question - of course the answer is yes.. Why do
> > Americans always think that their attempt at something is the first
> > time it has ever been tried in the world?
>Actually, I'm Canadian and just happen to be living in Washington DC
>now. I was rather stung by your reaction to my post. I took the trouble
>to cross-post it to the Carfree Cities list because it is of obvious
>interest; getting this kind of a reaction (in this case the unmerited
>and inaccurate stereotyping of Americans) can be enough to discourage a
>person from participating any further in a discussion group like this.
>I posed the question out of curiosity, not knowing how much of aSounds like a bit of a cultural issue - people in European cities are more
>problem auto-tramway collisions are elsewhere. When I was in Prague,
>for example, it seemed to me that this was no problem. Nor, as far as I
>know, in Amsterdam. My impressions are certainly superficial given my
>very short stays in either place, and I was wondering how well at-grade
>trams coexist with other street traffic (whether pedestrian,
>human-powered, or automobile) in various places around the world.
urban focused than in North America or Australia. However, saying that,
I'm sure there is a problem, just one that isn't given much publicity.
>The problem will always come up as long as there is coexistenceAnd there always will be coexistence of RoW in a city's transportation
>between public transit and some sort of individual locomotion on the
>same right of way.
system. Cars share with cars, cars share with pedestrians, with cyclists,
cyclists share with pedestrians, cars cycles and pedestrians share with
trams and trains. Why foist Transit with massive capital costs when cars
are getting a free ride and are still knocking down pedestrians and cyclists?
>Much as I would agree with your point of view about peoples'Another option is to give a more convenient method of suicide.
>perspective, this kind of gives up on the imperative to design the
>transit system in a way that minimises problems like this. When you
>design something, you always have to take into account the fact that
>many people are going to act irrationally: pointing out that they are
>irrational after the fact isn't going to make your problems go away.
>(Think of subway suicides, which regularly hold up the Montreal Metro:
>why not do like Paris does in newer stations, i.e. install glass walls
>with automated sliding doors on the edge of the platform?)
Again in Melbourne, we don't really have that much of a problem when it
comes to train suicides. The fact that our trains and trams are fitted
with wheel guards, which are basically a cast iron block that go in front
of the front wheels, tends to sweep suiciders aside and leave them with a
headache and an embarrassing story for the hospital staff.
We do however have this little wonder called the West Gate Freeway, which
culminates in an approach to the downtown area over a shipping channel (The
West Gate Bridge). It opened in 1978, carries 150,000 vehicles a day, and
has 4 lanes plus a breakdown lane in each direction. It's basically a
bridge of death. On October 15 1970, 35 construction workers died when
part of the structure collapsed. The fact that it's 53 metres above the
river below and is not far from the bay means that crosswinds are often
intense, and cars can be dragged across several lanes by the wind, though
not always with fatal results. They drop the variable speed limit from
80km/h (50mph) to 60 (37) or 40 (25) when the wind gets intense, but it
doesn't always help. Oh, and to top it all off, an average of one person a
week abandons a car, pushbike or motorbike on the bridge, or walks up, and
commits suicide by jumping off the side. And of course, the installation
of fencing on a bridge with high wind would add too much stress to the
Perhaps Futurama style Suicide Booths might be a less disruptive option
still. Even if only 50% of those who'd otherwise suicide off a bridge or
under a train decided to go in a purpose designed environment, there'd be
less need to send police wandering through West Gate Park every week
fishing out missing body parts here, and fewer subway disruptions in cities
>Interesting question: I *suspect* that there might be fewer simplyHere in oz, bus drivers are allowed to force their way out of bus stops and
>based on my experience as an urban cyclist. It is astounding how many
>drivers seem not to twig on to the fact that something that is not a
>gas-powered vehicle is also part of traffic and needs to be taken into
>account. My *feeling* is that some drivers would likely identify buses
into traffic - not that cars give way like the signs on the back of the bus
and the question in their drivers license exam says they must do. There
are occasionally crashes, but not always with the bus. Someone could
swerve out of the way of the bus and into the side of another car for example.
>unlike trams and such, as "real" street traffic to be taken intoIsn't the LA Blue Line the same? Not to mention plenty of other Streetcar
>account. Perhaps part of the problem with the Houston Metrorail is that
>it is on a marked-off corridor distinct from the street.
and Light Rail systems across North America. Things will settle down in
Also, keep in mind that those who do get injured or killed are only self
destructing, as their biology tells them to do, lest they reproduce and
pass on the moron gene. In the past, people like this would have been
wiped out at an earlier age and humanity was able to evolve as a
result. Now they are being protected and humanity is going backwards.
(Yes, I'm a fan of www.darwinawards.com )
>As I have already said, this is a major issue to takeWe may have to agree to disagree there..
>into account when cities inevitably start phasing in more and more (non
>petrochemical based) public transit lines in the coming decades.
> 3. The claim that light rail reduces traffic congestion has comeback
> to bite transit advocates. It clearly doesn't do that, as a visitto
> Tokyo will prove. What it does do is allow people to *opt out* ofnotion.
> congestion. Publicity for light rail lines should stress this
>This is an amazingly good point. Light rail provides a second,
complimentary pathway. After enough time has passed, maybe we can
start retiring the cars from city centers, thus creating carfree
- This reminds me of New Orleans, where the streetcars of an era past not only cross
streets, but travel in the same lanes as vehicles. In the Garden District, I have seen people
riding bicycles and jogging on the streetcar tracks--knowing, of course, to get out of the
way if they see a streetcar coming. Does anyone have New Orleans accident figures?
Oh--I looked at the list of Houston tram accidents, and saw no pedestrain or cyclist
accidents. Could this be because a pedestrian or cyclist is not belted into a seat and can
more effectively look both ways before crossing the tracks? Just a thought.
--- In email@example.com, "J.H. Crawford" <mailbox@c...> wrote:
> Hi All,
> Regarding the Houston issue, notice that nearly all the
> crashes involve cars turning left. The only way to tackle
> this problem is to forbid all left turns across the
> tracks, which, I believe, run in a center reservation.
> Drivers are literally getting blind-sided, and the
> signalling is always a bit confusing in the case of
> left-turn-on-arrow-only. Colorblind drivers may be
> seeing a red arrow and thinking it's green. (I know
> there aren't supposed to BE colorblind drivers, but
> I'll bet there are plenty in America, where it's drive
> or die.)
> Drivers would get used to the idea that you can NEVER
> turn left across the tram tracks. Instead, they will
> have to go around the block and approach straight on,
> when they will be able to cope with the standard traffic
> signal, which should see them safely across the tracsk.
> Their sight lines are good and mirrors aren't needed.
> If this doesn't work, then they will have to physically
> block all crossing traffic and provide some over- or
> underpasses to get cars across the tracks.
> Remember that in Zurich, the decision was made to get
> cars off the streets where they were interfering with
> the trams. Gotta get your priorities straight. This is
> going to be difficult in Houston.
> -- ### --
> J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
> mailbox@c... http://www.carfree.com
- 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
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, "J.H. Crawford" <mailbox@c...>
> Hi All,
> Regarding the Houston issue, notice that nearly all the
> crashes involve cars turning left.
- There is an important difference between New Orleans and Houston. In
New Orleans, the car stops are two blocks apart, whereas in Houston
they come to about a kilometer apart. So Houston's express
streetcars are moving faster than the New Orleans cars since they
don't stop at most intersections. The faster speed and limited stops
of Houston's light rail with more connecting shuttle bus lines is
appropriate to a city of its size.
Most of that connecting bus system has been put on hold until the
completion of the study we've just read. I think the expanded bus
connections with the wholesale rerouting of bus lines into Wheeler,
Downtown Transit Center, and Tx. Medical Center stations, will happen
either this month or April. Houston Metro has a total fleet of 1200
buses. When the rerouting occurs the trams will go from every 12 to
every 6 minutes during the day, the same as New Orleans. I think
they will remain every 12 minutes at night, however. The line runs
out of downtown from 4:42 AM to 12:42 AM Monday through Saturday, and
5:42 to 12:42 on Sundays.
There's another important difference. The Houston car stops are also
unlike New Orleans in that they are raised platforms affording more
protection for waiting passengers from dangerous drivers, the same as
we're seeing on the northside line opening for service in Portland
Driving, jogging or cycling on Houston streetcar tracks stands a good
chance of getting you a ticket from Metro police. Houston's not as
laid back as New Orleans, which doesn't have Houston's traffic
--- In email@example.com, "Matt Hohmeister"
> This reminds me of New Orleans, where the streetcars of an era pastnot only cross
> streets, but travel in the same lanes as vehicles. In the GardenDistrict, I have seen people
> riding bicycles and jogging on the streetcar tracks--knowing, ofcourse, to get out of the
> way if they see a streetcar coming. Does anyone have New Orleansaccident figures?