Three accidents and it hasn’t even opened

T-Bone Collision with Link LRT and a vehicle
Source: DON PHAM / NORTHWEST VIETNAMESE NEWS

Seattle’s new Link LRT System hasn’t even opened yet and there have already been 3 accidents involving trains running into cars and pedestrians at intersections.    This has occured even though most of the Link LRT is already fully segregated, with a small portion running alongside traffic.  According to Sound Transit, Seattle’s transit agency, the incidents shut down testing for about an hour and a half.  Could you imagine how many problems this would happen if LRT was chosen for the UBC Line, especially since the LRT would run throughout the entire portion of the Broadway and 10th Avenue Corridor?    Start with counting how many intersections there are along those streets.

Full Article:

A man was injured late this afternoon when a Sound Transit light-rail train and a car collided at Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and South Myrtle Street.

By Mike Lindblom and Phillip Lucas
Seattle Times staff reporters

A motorist received minor injuries Monday in a collision with a Sound Transit light-rail train in Rainier Valley, the third incident since frequent train testing began there this spring.

The crash happened just after 5 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and South Myrtle Street, next to the Othello light-rail station in Southeast Seattle.

Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said the car was heading south and made a left turn, against a red light, from MLK Way onto Myrtle as the train traveled south alongside in the median of MLK.

The driver, a man in his 70s, was taken away by ambulance with minor injuries, said Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick.

Emergency crews tore the roof off the car to remove the driver, said Fitzpatrick. He was the sole occupant, transit officials said.

At the time of the crash, the train was traveling at low speed because it was about to stop at the station, Gray said. The train T-boned the car.

The crash caused minor damage to a front panel on the train. It drove under its own power to the maintenance facility.

Sound Transit is testing its trains along the 14-mile route from downtown Seattle to Tukwila, in preparation for service to begin July 18.

After the wreck was cleared at 6:30 p.m. train tests resumed.

This is the third incident involving a test train in Rainier Valley, where tracks run in a median at street level. Two were crashes with cars, and in one case, a person walked into the side of a train, according to Sound Transit.

“We’ve been running 20 hours a day for over a month here. We think people are getting used to it, but incidents like this are a reminder for people to follow the rules,” Gray said.

Sound Transit officials say their rail project has improved overall safety on MLK Way, by eliminating two-way left-turn lanes that used to play a major role in both motorist and pedestrian injuries.

Dana Echols, who said she witnessed the crash, and another bystander, Than Pham, said the rail intersections should have crossing gates.

Sound Transit didn’t install crossing arms because trains are going at the normal traffic speed of 35 mph or less, Gray said, and because neighbors in public-comment sessions didn’t want the area looking like a freight-train corridor.

A decade ago, an environmental-impact statement predicted 29 car-train collisions per year, and three with pedestrians, based on experience in other cities. Transit officials said actual numbers would be less in Seattle, because of improved warning signals and road designs, as well as relatively careful drivers here.

Critics of the project urged local politicians not to mix light rail with street traffic, before groundbreaking in 2003. Many U.S. cities, including Portland, run trains along arterial streets.

Sound Transit has visited many schools and groups to preach rail safety, while giving out water bottles, rulers and a board game with safety slogans. The agency and teenagers have made online videos, urging young people to keep off the tracks.

Jaywalking is still commonplace across MLK, while some motorists are noticeably enraged by longer wait times at traffic lights, where trains take priority.

“I just think that a lot of kids, Lord forbid, will be running across the train tracks thinking they can make it, and they’re going to get hit,” said Echols. “The train’s not even open yet, and people are already getting in accidents.”

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

Source: The Seattle Times

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2 Responses

  1. How many accidents between cars, between cars and bikes, between cars and pedestrians do we have in a 3 months period? should we then ban all cars for being unsafe?
    Many towns in the world (far more than towns with a Skytrain or VAL type system) have LRT at grade..even in busy cities like Paris…yes there is the odd accident, always because of a careless driver. So what?
    People have been killed by SkyTrain too.. but we aren’t told the numbers.

  2. The point is that an at-grade LRT train crash will mean the rapid transit rail line will be shut down for hours while crews clean up, and there would be commuter chaos if this happens.

    55 people have been killed by a SkyTrain vehicle. However, of that number 45 have been suicides and the remaining 10 were accidental. Suicides would have happened regardless, whether they’d be LRT, bus, car, bridge, etc., and the same goes for people accidentally falling into the tracks and getting killed by incoming trains.

    With SkyTrain, train collisions with people can only happen at the stations if an individual falls onto the tracks. With LRT, train collisions with people can happen anywhere along an at-grade track…not to mention collisions with cars, buses, trucks, cyclists, etc. That’s the difference between LRT and SkyTrain.

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