Skip to comments.(Houston) Main Street was dangerous before the rail, records show
Posted on 04/18/2004 3:01:31 PM PDT by Action-America
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
(Since this comes from the Houston Chronicle, I have added disgronifier comments in [bracketed blue Arial italic font].)
Metro train accidents
Take a tour of the rails
(Requires Flash plug-in)
Inside a rail car: Chronicle-produced Real Player video looking at the new Metro rail cars.
Metropolitan Transit Authority: Web site.
Between 1998 and 2000, nearly 8,000 crashes were recorded along the 7 1/2-mile corridor where Metropolitan Transit Authority light rail trains now travel. Almost 2,000 were on Main and Fannin alone, two streets that make up most of today's rail route.
The pre-rail crash total averaged about 51 incidents per week, or roughly 7 1/2 per day.
Vehicles have collided with trains 35 times since the rail line was completed six months ago, a little more than one collision per week. [For almost two months of that period, the rail system was undergoing testing and only operating part time. The average since the Wham-Bam-Tram went online, January 1, 2004, is two crashes per week (1.96).]
"The reality is, the driving public was experiencing these serious collisions before we ever put a different mode of transportation there," said Metro Police Chief Tom Lambert.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council, which closely examined 1999 crash records from the Texas Medical Center, calculated a serious collision rate in that neighborhood of 314 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, 58 percent higher than the Houston regional rate of 199. [which raises the question, "Through what warped logic did Metro decide to put the Wham-Bam-Tram where it was so prone to cause even more accidents?" Since they knew, in advance, that congestion in the area caused so many accidents along the proposed route, why did they not build it a few blocks over or elevate it? Their extremely poor choice of routes is largely to blame for the huge number of crashes involving the Wham-Bam-Tram - something that is sure to be used by plaintiff attorneys, in upcoming personal injury lawsuits.]
"The Medical Center attracts people who are ill or whose minds are totally preoccupied with an injury or illness of someone they know," said Dave Willis, director of the Texas Transportation Institute's Center for Transportation Safety. [The Medical Center also attracts huge numbers of people from outside of Houston, who are preoccupied by looking for street signs and landmarks, to find their way to a particular hospital. The same can be said for the Museum District - another high crash area - where tourists are trying to find their way, through congested traffic, to a particular museum.]
Eight of the train/vehicle crashes have occurred in the Texas Medical Center.
A TTI safety assessment done for Metro in March warns that regardless of what steps are taken to improve safety along the rail line: "There will likely still be a large number of collisions in the area due to unfamiliar drivers and high traffic volumes."
While the publicity mostly has surrounded the train crashes, Metro police have kept busy working numerous incidents along the rail corridor that did not involve trains. About 15 cars have driven into the Main Street Square fountain downtown. [Conspicuously absent from this report, is any statistics pertaining to the overall increase in accidents along this corridor, since the Wham-Bam-Tram was put into service.]
Police reports also detail such mayhem as several cars careening off Main Street into adjacent buildings and running into light and utility poles.
One driver ran over pedestrian barricades near Preston Station, and another rolled through flower beds before crashing into the train station at Main Street Square.
Metro Chairman David Wolff has vowed to continue stepped-up police patrols.
"People have gotten accustomed to perhaps not obeying traffic laws the way they should," he said. "We believe it is imperative the traffic laws in this region be better enforced if we are to have a safe system."
"Metro Chairman David Wolff has vowed to continue stepped-up police patrols."
This is typical of Houston bureaucrats. They want to ticket the victims of their own incompetence. They claim that all 35 of the crashes were caused by driver error, refusing to admit that the overwhelming number of Wham-Bam-Tram crashes points to a serious design flaw that promotes driver error.
See the Wham-Bam-Tram Ram Counter and Wham-Bam-Tram Clock (continuously counts the hours between crashes) on the Action America Houston Pages (http://www.ActionAmerica.org/houston/).
Another of the design flaws, is that the silver-gray color of the Wham-Bam-Tram too easily blends into the background of the city streets. Maybe they should repaint the Wham-Bam-Tram, to match it's obvious threat to public safety.
The new baseball park was loaded with creature comforts and nice folks working there. I tried out the new surface rail line from town center to the medical center where I spent one day working. It was comfortable, easy to use, reasonably priced and quick. I heard of the controvesary surrounding the train project but, as a business visitor, I found it difficult to understand what the reported fuss was all about. The train seems like an appropriate system for a city of Houston's size. From watching TV news traffic reports for those few days, it seems as though more trains would be a pretty good idea.
I went through flight training south of Houston in 1958 in the Rio grande Valley and recall the terrific heat of those Summer weekends when a bunch of second lieutenants (without wings yet) with too much money and too many hormones descended on the city's hots spots of that era to act like the young fools we were. While I'm now too old to do that again, the Spring weather foretold of the reality that the Summer heat hasn't changed.
To the folks of Houston: You've got a very visitable city that's still fun for the visitor, especially during the baseball season. I was able to see three Spring Training games in Florida during March and have become a fan of the Astros--albeit at a distance on the East Coast of Florida.
A good trip to Houston was made better by the fact that the case I went there for was settled, now I don't have a business excuse to go there again.
Disclaimer: No, I don't work for the Houston Chamber of Commerce of Tourist Commission.
There may be some validity to that point. DART trains are bright yellow, and don't seem to have the problems seen in Houston.
(with rebuttal to the Comical)
If you think it's easy getting around on the roads in Houston in spite of construction, you shoulda been here 5 years ago. That's when the way construction was done significantly changed. Rather than complete a project before starting a new one, many roads were torn up seemingly to commit the city to the projects. Things have been in disrepair for YEARS instead of months with some major roadways being shut down completely (including highways) for days at a time if not months/years!
I'd wager that many of the Houston FReepers have a difficult time travelling around any given day without encountering at least one closed lane/roadway in their travels (and we will ignore the I-45 because excepting a few brief years after it was completed, it has ALWAYS been underconstruction, no joke).
And that's just the Metro Bus drivers (ba-dat boom! < /rimshot>). Seriously folks, the bus drivers in this town bully cars with those buses that can't even fit in a single lane especially on Westheimer which, if we all recall, years ago (over a decade) was widened by repainting the stripes from 3 lanes to 4 (or was that 4 to 5?).
I nearly got sideswiped by a bus driver doing 55MPH on Westheimer in a 35 zone. He wasn't even doing "traffic" speed (which was more around 40-42). I put my window down and shouted at him to SLOW IT DOWN when I got stopped next to him at a light (he had his driver's window open). I was already outraged from a Metor Bus driver who along this same route had tried to block my exit from a gas station driveway.
I've reported a few bus drivers to Metro but that takes a really offensive driver (and even then I haven't reported all of them). The city is libel for the accidents they get into (and that includes injuries to the passengers).
I've seen the video of a Metrorail driver bullying a car to get off the tracks (where it was supposed to be to wait to make a left turn). The operator blew his horn until the guy made an illegal left turn (against the light and into oncoming traffic); I thought Metro/City of Houston/HPD/The Comical's stance was that drivers shouldn't make illegal left turns.
I've also seen something else; do the light stay red in all 4 directions now when a Metrorail approaches? I saw a Metrorail blast the horn (but no slow down) as it ran right through a red light (no cars in the area). Even emergency vehicles approach a red light with caution when sirens are blaring.