16 June 2009
METRO adds a new trick to the Danger Train files
A Metro light rail train derailed around 12:30 a.m. this morning near the intersection of Greenbriar and Braeswood, between the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park.
The derailed train collided with a power pole and another rail car.
The toy train derailed?!
How does that even happen?
We're sure METRO will be entirely forthcoming with the details. *wink*
24 August 2010
Another car takes on Danger Train
METRO'S DANGER TRAIN apparently had another fender bender today.
We should build more at-grade rail!
23 November 2005
A close encounter with the Danger Train
Laurence Simon had another Danger Train adventure yesterday.
Someday grownups will be put in charge of Metro. Until then, though...
12 June 2007
Hermann Park kiddie train in line for an upgrade
Various media outlets recently reported that the Hermann Park kiddie train will soon be going away, to be replaced by a more significant train. Here's an excerpt from the Chronicle:
Under a proposal from the Hermann Park Conservancy and the Houston City Council's quality-of-life committee, the little train could be getting a $4 million upgrade, with new tracks and trains, a new train station and three new train stops.
Two new stops will be located near the MetroRail depots at Hermann Park/Rice and at the Houston Zoo. The third new train stop will be near the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Garden Center and Miller Outdoor Theatre.
The proposal, part of an $11 million improvement plan for Hermann Park's Lake Plaza, will be considered on Wednesday by the Houston City Council, Councilwoman Pam Holm said.
As they waited in the blazing, hot sun for the trip around the park, many train riders expressed support for the idea of an updated train with additional stops.
Two-year-old Carter Jones didn't seem to care.
"I love the train!" the little boy said. "It's a sunny day!"
Carter is "a second-generation train rider," said his father, Chris Jones, of Houston. They were spending the day at the Houston Zoo and Hermann Park with Jones' brother-in-law, Doug Keady, and Keady's son, Drew, of Grapevine.
"All the guys are going on the train," Jones said. "I used to come down here as a kid."
The idea of a multipurpose train with additional stops "is a great idea," Jones said. "This is a humongous park, so having multiple drop-off spots would make it much easier to get around."
Heaven forbid Houstonians actually use their feet to WALK in a park!
RELATED COVERAGE: KTRK-13.
14 January 2012
Danger Train draws blood on Friday the 13th
Quote of the year so far from METRO's very expensive TV mouthpiece: "She wasn't that far under there."
According to METRO, the woman was walking on the tracks near Polk toward the train. The driver sounded the horn, but she never moved. She was struck and pulled under. The train came to an abrupt stop.
"Everybody was just shocked, they were taken aback. Everybody was on their phones, everybody was trying to see what had happened. We couldn't get a good angle but all the police and the ambulance showed up and it was chaos," Dupre said.
The woman ended up under the cab and not the wheels. And on this scene Houston firefighters didn't use hoses, but rather airbags for the rescue.
"To help lift the train just a couple of inches, she wasn't that far under there. It required a couple of inches of life to get her up from under the train," METRO Spokesman Jerome Gray said.
Meanwhile, METRO continues to build additional, expensive at-grade tram lines down busy streets. Because we wouldn't want this sort of Friday the 13th fun restricted to just one short stretch in Houston!
Posted by Kevin Whited @ Train draws blood on Friday the 13th"> 01/14/12 08:45 AM | Comments (0)
12 November 2008
Another Houston driver takes on Danger Train, loses
In a rare bit of reporting on the topic, the Chron notes that a Danger Train crash took place earlier:
Three passengers on a MetroRail train were taken to a hospital this morning after the train collided with a car at a downtown intersection.
The accident occurred about 9:20 a.m. as the driver of the car attempted an illegal left turn at Main and Leeland, said Metro spoieswoman Raequel Roberts.
The passengers were taken to St. Joseph Medical Center with injuries that were deemed non-life-threatening, Roberts said.
The car was traveling on Leeland when it crossed the northbound train's path and was struck on the driver's side, Roberts said.
The driver, who was not injured, was cited by police for turning illegally, she said.
Northbound train service resumed about 10:50 a.m.
So, the Danger Train, METRO's "transit backbone," was out of service for an hour-and-a-half because at-grade light rail and bad Houston drivers continue to be a bad mix.
Imagine how well the coming at-grade rail lines in busy corridors like Richmond (which is how METRO and its sycophants translate "Westpark") will mix with Houston drivers!
BLOGVERSATION: Lose an Eye, It's a Sport.
18 January 2011
Department of Unfortunate Ironies
Pedestrian hit by car shoved into moving Metro train: If only METRO had unveiled the safety-wrapped Danger Train yesterday, this accident might not have happened.
23 December 2005
Pickup truck derails Danger Train
The Danger Train had a bit of a problem Friday:
Several people are recovering after a light rail accident Friday. A pickup truck slammed into the train on Main at Elgin downtown and sent part of the train right off its tracks.
The accident is one of the worst in light rail's nearly two year history. Like most of the crashes that have plagued METRO's trains, the one shortly after noon on Friday is blamed on a driver.
A scene of mass casualties is what Houston paramedics encountered near where the collision took place.
"It kind of shook everybody to the left and got off the track," said passenger Gala Abdul-Aleem.
"We were scared because the train jumped," added passenger Rodolpho Castro.
The impact jarred the several dozen passengers on board.
"We thought the train was going down because it jumped a lot," said Castro.
The train stayed upright, but derailed slightly. As METRO engineers solved that problem, paramedics rushed seven passengers and the pickup truck driver to area hospitals.
Of course, it's the truck driver's fault...and he'll probably be ticketed...and his insurance will be billed...because a train was running down the middle of Main Street.
On a semi-related note, here's a knowledgable Houstonian's experience trying to navigate downtown without getting smooshed by our world-class train.
UPDATE: Rad Sallee's story this morning says that (so far) no ticket has been issued to the truck driver due to differing stories of who had a green light. There have been instances in the past where train operators have blown through intersections when they didn't have the vertical bar (green light).
BUT this KHOU-11 story says the onboard train video shows that the train did have a vertical bar.
And Tom Bazan emails that this is accident number 126. Does any other city even come close to our accident rate?
13 February 2005
MetroRail crash victim speaks out
"All I could do was close my eyes and say, 'oh my God, oh my God' and I did like that and I said, 'Lord, stop this train' and he did," the driver said.
Driving the white van was 43-year-old Pat. She wanted to keep her last name secret, but talked all about the accident that took place Thursday in the Medical Center just as rush hour began. Pat said she didn't hear the train nor see it until it was too late.
"The only time I saw it was when it made contact. Actually, when it made contact. That's how I knew that train was there," Pat said.
Pat said she's blessed to be alive, only suffering minor scrapes and bruises. The passenger in the van, however, was seriously hurt and is still recovering at Memorial Hermann.
Pat calls the accident an error in judgment. "For me to make a misguided turn like that, it was just beyond me," she said.
Pat fears there will more accidents, possibly even worse than the one she was involved in, if something isn't done.
"I don't know if it's going to take an instant death before they do something else with the safety of pedestrians and drivers along that railway," said Pat.
03 September 2005
Welcome to Houston...watch out for the train
Sigh -- MetroRail strikes a Katrina evacuee:
An evacuee who was reportedly listening through headphones and looking at the ground while walking toward the Astrodome was struck by a Metro light rail train this morning, officials said.
The unidentified man, in his late 40s or early 50s, apparently didn't see the dropped crossing arms or blinking caution lights or hear officers screaming at him as he tried to walk across the tracks at Fannin and Naomi around 11:30 a.m., said Metro spokesman George Smalley.
"He walked right into the path of the train," Smalley said. "You don't ever want this to happen to anybody. But it's especially painful to someone who's already gone through such trauma."
The man was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital, where he was being treated for an injured spleen and other non-life-threatening injuries, he said.
(Thanks to Tom Bazan for the heads up.)
01 June 2010
THE HOUSTON PRESS ran a fine piece by Paul Knight last week with a title that's perfect:
It's a comprehensive look at METRO, its evolution from bus-heavy to rail-envious, and all the various characters, controversies, cheerleading (Chron), watchdogging (other media), and nontransparency along the way.
08 February 2008
Danger Train hits, drags cyclist
Unbeknownst to one Houstonian, it's unwise to ride a bike near the Danger Train while listening to an Ipod (via KHOU-11):
The victim for a time was stuck under the train in the 6400 block of Fannin in front of Memorial Hermann Hospital. The victim is a female bicyclist whose leg was caught under the train, emergency officials told 11 News.
Houston fire emergency crews had to pull the woman from under the train and treated her for unknown injuries. An emergency official said was dragged about 50 feet after being struck by the train.
Investigators on scene said it appeared that the woman was unaware the train was approaching because she was wearing headphones and couldn't hear the train's warning horn.
The woman, who is in her late 20s, was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital where she was in serious, but stable condition.
Operation of the light rail was suspended, but service resumed about 5:15 p.m.
Bicyclists should note that the train will not impede their Saturday morning ride between the Fannin South and Wheeler stations as Metro's transit backbone will be shut down for repairs. However, buses will (as always) pick up the train's slack, so a watchful eye (and ear!) is still warranted.
KEVIN WHITED ADDS: Do cities with rail lines that are segregated from vehicular and pedestrian traffic have nearly so many instances of their trains striking cars, wheelchairs, pedestrians, and bicyclists?
UPDATE (02-12-2008): KPRC-2 reports that METRO video clearly shows that the Danger Train driver ignored a stop signal before hitting the bicyclist (a 29-year-old physician). Details here.
16 April 2006
Another close call with the Danger Train
I was driving in downtown Houston near main when I came to the light rail. So when the light turned green I proceeded across the rails but in less than 1 second, and I do mean 1 second the light was yellow again and then red. And there was the light rail car right on me. I'm caught on the rail just as the light is turning red in less than a second or more...and I do mean no more. From this experience I assume in the engineering system the light rail car has the right of way. Meaning even if you have the green light and the rail is approaching the light will automatically change to accommodate the rail car. I see this as a very dangerous situation for drivers and pedestrians out there. Metro really needs to look at this issue because if it happened to me it's happened to others.
KEVIN WHITED ADDS (04-17-2006): I was waiting at a red at Main and Elgin this morning at about 7 o'clock headed west, watching the train approach from the north (headed south). Before the train had cleared the intersection, the Elgin light turned green. If a car on the other side had hit the gas to head east across the intersection, it would have struck the train and would have had a green light to do so! This isn't the first time I've seen this happen at that intersection.
26 December 2006
Danger Train collision
An onboard camera captured video of a Metro rail colliding with a car near the Medical Center Tuesday morning.
A couple for Willis was on their way to the Medical Center for an appointment when the crash occurred at Fannin and Wichita, just north of the bridges on Highway 59.
Luckily, no one was hurt.
Enlightened Houstonians (including the Chron's editorial board) would no doubt suggest that the couple from Willis would have been better off riding the Danger Train to the Medical Center, instead of driving there. Never mind that in order to do so, they'd have had to drive into downtown, park, purchase a ticket, then get on the train.
Anyway, I hope the train's windshield is undamaged since Metro just spent almost $50,000 on new windshields. It would appear MetroRail windshields don't have a long lifespan.
11 February 2005
Local media covers the latest MetroRail crash -- with one exception
As most people probably know, there was another MetroRail crash yesterday and it's interesting to look at the local media's coverage.
KPRC-2's story immediately places the blame on the van's driver:
A handicap van hit a METRORail train on the tracks near the Texas Medical Center Thursday afternoon, shutting down the rail service for a while, officials told Local 2.
The accident happened on the southbound tracks at Fannin and University shortly after 5 p.m. Officials said the van's driver pulled in front of the moving train, hitting it.
If you look at the picture with the story, it seems improbable that the van hit the train. Yes, it appears the van's driver turned in front of the train, but then the van would have been on the tracks and the train would have hit the van. Maybe someone will get a hold of Metro's on-board video so we can actually see what happened.
And then we get to the Chronicle where we find -- nothing. Not a peep about yesterday's accident from Houston's one major daily newspaper, self-described as "Your daily information source." What a surprise!
UPDATE: KHOU-11 has obtained the Metro video that was recorded on board the train.
18 April 2006
METRO gives drivers the green light to hit the Danger Train
Laurence Simon posts about his experience at a METRO light rail crossing today -- he literally watched the traffic lights go green while the train was in the intersection.
I saw the same thing happen earlier this week at Main and Elgin (noted as an update to this post).
It is true, as Laurence points out, that only a complete moron would hit the gas on green (without looking) at any intersection in Houston, let alone a Danger Train intersection. Still, as METRO seriously contemplates the insanity of laying a rail line down the middle of yet another heavily-trafficked street (Richmond), it might be nice if they could actually get the traffic lights working properly on their current experiment in dangerous transit.
30 March 2008
It's surprising Chief Lambert didn't come down and Taser her!
Carolyn Wright writes a letter to the Chronicle about her recent experience on METRO's transit backbone:
On March 12, I had a court appearance at 9 a.m. At Fannin South station, I tried to purchase a ticket for Metro's rail. None of the four ticket machines were working. No attendant was on duty and no instructions were posted.
On the trip downtown, a Metro policeman began collecting tickets. I tried to explain that I had no ticket because the machines weren't working. He became very offensive. He said in an extremely hateful tone, "We have passed at least 10 ticket machines since Fannin South — you should have gotten off the train, purchased a ticket and boarded the next train!" I told him I had no idea about this procedure — this was only the second time I had ridden, and no instructions were posted anywhere.
At the next stop, he told me and another woman to get off the train. He began talking very loudly and belligerently. He said he was only giving us a "warning" but threatened that this "better not happen again."
This situation might explain why Metro gets a bad reputation. People traveling by train on an occasional basis have no way of knowing the "rules"! Instructions of what to do should be posted somewhere around the ticket machines.
Neither customer service nor transparency are strengths of METRO.
13 May 2006
Police officer takes on Danger Train, loses
METRO's light-rail "transit backbone" suffered another collision with a motorist this afternoon. This time, an off-duty police officer was involved in the collision:
An off-duty Houston police officer was involved in a collision with a Metro train at about 3 p.m. today, at the intersection of Main and West Alabama.
The officer, and two passengers on the train, have been transported to area hospitals for treatment of their injuries.
The police officer's dog also was injured in the crash.
Metro spokesman George Smalley said that a preliminary report about the train wreck showed that the train operator was headed south bound on Main, when the train was struck by a black Ford Expedition headed westbound on West Alabama.
HPD spokesman Nate McDuell said that the police officer is an undercover narcotics officer who was not on duty. The officer's dog, which was riding in the Expedition, also was injured in the collision, McDuell said.
Smalley said the preliminary report also indicated that the officer may have run a red light at the intersection.
What, just because a police officer is involved (and not a normal citizen), METRO officials aren't screeching that the driver was at fault and will be publicly humiliated by Metro Chief Lambert, ticketed, and charged for any damage to the train? In this case, the motorist "may have" been at fault and that's it? Maybe METRO officials were scared the dog would bite them if they pulled their usual act.
It's too bad that media outlets no longer report the number of collisions. By John Gaver's count, that would seem to be #130.
UPDATE (05-14-2006): The Chronicle report has been updated, and now includes the following:
The accident was the 139th involving MetroRail and another vehicle or person since testing began in 2003. It was the 17th incident this year.
05 June 2006
HPD unconvinced that officer was at fault in Danger Train collision
In today's Move It! column, Rad Sallee reports the latest on a recent Danger Train accident involving an HPD officer:
A Houston Police Department spokesman said no action will be taken against an undercover officer whose city-owned vehicle collided with a MetroRail train May 13, causing minor injuries to two train passengers, the officer and his dog.
The accident occurred at 3:30 p.m. at Main and Alabama in a segment of the tracks where stoplights are programmed to go red in all directions when the train approaches.
The video shows that the train operator had received a vertical white line signal to proceed north through the intersection. It also shows a car coming to a stop on the east side of the track, although it is not clear whether the driver stopped for the light or saw the train itself.
The officer's car, which is not visible until just before the collision, appears suddenly from the west as the train reaches Alabama. The video does not show what color the stoplight was showing in the direction of the officer.
HPD Capt. Dwayne Ready said bystanders gave conflicting statements, two of them supporting the officer's account.
"Also, I do not believe the information provided by Metro conclusively ruled out the possibility that the lights may have malfunctioned with regard to what the officer saw," Ready said.
Although Metro police normally investigate MetroRail collisions, Ready said HPD, which has a division specifically for accident investigations, handles those involving the city's fleet.
That was smart of HPD not to let Metro have the final say in the investigation's conclusion since we have several eyewitness accounts of Metro's short-cycled traffic signal operation that can give drivers little or no time to react to an oncoming train.
Amusingly, the original Chronicle story on the accident includes this quote from Metro's George Smalley:
Smalley said the preliminary report also indicated that the officer may have run a red light at the intersection.
That would undoubtedly be Metro's preliminary report.
04 January 2006
METRO commemorates Braille Day
METRO received criticism on the fiftieth anniversary of Rosa Parks' famous act of civil rights activism on a Montgomery bus for not doing enough to commemorate the act.
Perhaps civil rights activists should be thankful, if METRO's response to Louis Braille's birthday is any indication:
A blind man walking downtown was struck by a passing Metro rail train shortly before noon Wednesday.
The man was struck by the train at the intersection of Main and Lamar.
The man was walking with his cane at the intersection of Main and Lamar when he apparently became confused and stepped into the train’s path.
The driver of the train allegedly blew the whistle to warn the victim, but he did not get out of the way in time.
The victim was transported to Ben Taub Hospital with head trauma.
(Hat tip to Laurence Simon for the links and unfortunate imagery).
UPDATE: The initial Chron.com reporting (since updated) did not mention the man was blind. Now it does, and adds the following:
Bob Broxson, who works downtown, said he was standing on the east side of Main at Lamar when the man attempted to cross toward him.
"There was a lady ... yelling for him to stop, and the train was blowing its whistle,'' Broxson said. ``He started feeling around urgently with his cane trying to figure out where he was.''
Broxson said the train operator apparently hit the brakes, bringing the train to a stop about 15 feet past the collision site. "It wasn't the train's fault,'' he said.
Metro spokeswoman Raequel Roberts said witnesses told police the train operator sounded the horn in warning, but the man was apparently disoriented. It was not immediately known how fast the train was moving.
I've seen the train moving at a speed I would guess is above the speed limits. It would be interesting to know the train's rate of speed, and without having to file a Freedom of Information request to get the information. Perhaps one of METRO's PR people who read the blog could help us out with that?
26 January 2005
Cause of light rail crash under investigation
KPRC-2 has updated an earlier story on this morning's light rail crash, and is running the ominous headline "Police Not Sure Who To Blame For METRORail Crash"
The driver contends that he entered an intersection on a green light, only to be sideswiped by the tram.
After previous collisions, Metro police rushed to the scene and lectured Houston drivers on safety.
This time, police aren't assigning blame so quickly:
[Motorist Robert] Oden said the cameras at the intersection and on the train would show what really happened.
"They have cameras up and down this route strictly for something like this," Oden said.
The cause of the accident remains under investigation. If Oden is ticketed for the accident, he will also be responsible for repairing the damaged train.
METRO told Local 2 that since the light-rail system began operating in November 2003, there have been about 70 accidents. They also said that out of those 70 accidents, only one train operator has been held responsible for the collision.
That would be 75, for those scoring at home.
UPDATE (01-27-2005): A Chronicle blurb indicates Metro is now blaming the motorist:
Two MetroRail passengers were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital complaining of minor injuries after a car crashed into the train they were riding in the Museum District Wednesday morning. Metro spokesman Ken Connaughton said the car was eastbound on Hermann just after 10 a.m. when it ran a red light and struck the southbound train on Fannin. It was the third collision on the Main Street light rail line this year.
It seems clear from other reports that the train hit the car, although it is unclear whether the car was in the intersection legally. Even if it were in the intersection illegally, writing that the car "crashed into the train" seems purposely backwards. The newspaper should not bend factual descriptions to fit its pro-rail agenda.
KHOU-11 posts a story and video of the crash here.
12 July 2006
Danger Train field trip set for July 15, 2006
The blogHOUSTON Danger Train field trip has been set for July 15, 2006.
Laurence Simon has also suggested capping things off with the Astros that evening, for anyone who might be interested.
We'll be meeting up at Preston Station (downtown, not far from Cabo) at noon on Saturday. There should be plenty of free parking downtown around that time of day.
Feel free to come make use of YOUR light-rail "transit backbone," or just stop by later in the day for beverages at Cabo (always a good thing on a hot summer day).
Posted by Kevin Whited @ Train field trip set for July 15, 2006"> 07/12/06 12:27 PM | Comments (32)
12 July 2009
An accident METRO officials couldn't blame on anyone but themselves
Back on June 16th, Kevin Whited noted, incredulously, that the Danger Train somehow managed to derail, run into a power pole, and rear-end another train. It was unclear if METRO PD Chief Tom Lambert found some nearby pedestrians to berate for causing the accident.
A couple of weeks later, KHOU-11 followed up with the accident investigation results. As with anything related to METRO, all we can do is shake our heads:
1. The train was speeding, going 22 mph in a 15 mph zone. The investigation notes that part of the problem is METRO had three different speed limits within an 1100 foot section of the track.
2. The report recommends that for Danger Train expansion routes that have tight curves, METRO should either widen the track or install rail guards to keep trains from derailing.
3. METRO should stop applying rail lubricant manually along curves, and instead install an automatic lubrication system. "The report found that the lubricant can dry up quickly and become ineffective in Houston’s hot summers." Who knew?
4. METRO needs to preserve evidence after a derailment. The report noted that by the time investigators arrived five days after the accident, METRO had already begun repairs.
5. METRO has also discovered that it doesn't have a standardized program for Danger Train instructors. After 5+ years of operation, METRO just now discovers this?
Isn't it comforting to know that the experts in charge of 7.5 miles of downtown light rail are working on expanding it?
On a side note, The Downtown Aquarium train had a little rear-end accident last night. According to the Aquarium's press release, the mini-train will be operating today in spite of the accident. Be careful out there!
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Train driver who smashed bicyclist had permission
RELATED: Derailment Blamed on Human Error, METRO's Sit and Spin blog
15 March 2010
Another METRO bus/Danger Train collision downtown (updated)
ANOTHER COLLISION between a METRO bus and the Danger Train has taken place.
Houston needs more at-grade rail down busy streets!
UPDATE: Here's more on the KPRC-2 website.
UPDATE 3: KHOU's report has been updated to include a passenger who asserts that the bus had the green light, and the Danger Train rammed it. Raequel "9 Volt" Roberts promises another investigation. Perhaps someone should obtain an injunction that keeps METRO from destroying/altering the evidence!
KHOU's report also includes this great quote:
Janet Gates was a passenger on the light rail train.
"You just got to pray every day, because you never know what will happen from one moment to the next," Gates said.
Not when it comes to the Danger Train!
UPDATE 4: Here is the lede for the pro-METRO Chronicle's story:
Nineteen people were injured, none seriously, when a Metro bus and a light rail train collided Monday afternoon in front of Metro's downtown headquarters, the second such crash at that intersection in five weeks.
So, all nineteen people were transported to the hospital by ambulance, but the pro-METRO newspaper editorializes that their injuries were not serious in their news story?!
Perhaps the injuries were not life-threatening, but it strikes us that injuries that result in ambulance transport to hospitals should not be deemed not serious. The 19 people whose commute was interrupted by a bus/rail crash and ensuing ambulance ride to the hospital probably thought it was serious!
But why editorialize at all? Report the facts and let readers decide what to think. This is just another data point for why we refer to the Chron as America's worst big-city daily.
UPDATE (03/16/2010): METRO has released a video that would seem to show the bus driver ran a red light.
Posted by Kevin Whited @ Train collision downtown (updated)"> 03/15/10 02:47 PM | Comments (9)
21 September 2007
The danger train strikes again
Well, while Kevin and Anne [woops! That should be Kevin and Callie!] are off to the sunny Near East, I'm picking up the slack a bit by noting that the Danger Train has struck (a vehicle) again, just about an hour ago. Since the accident just happened, the details are pretty sketchy:
One of the train's passengers — a person in a wheelchair — was taken to St. Joseph's hospital by ambulance, they said. No other injuries were reported. All passengers of the train will be offloaded while Metro authorities consider whether to start a bus bridge along the route to bypass the accident scene.
Would it be too much to ask to build a train bridge to bypass the entire route? Evidently so, given Metro's expansion plans.
The cause of the accident is under investigation, officials said.
Hint: Elementary physics and stupid design are at fault. Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time; therefore, putting trains and cars on the same street is a bad idea -- but only if the trains carry freight, apparently!
UPDATE: As Rorschach points out, the story seems to have changed. Most interesting alteration is that the first story mentions a wheelchair-bound person being taken to the hospital. The new story omits any mention of a wheelchair, and mentions only a "motorized scooter." Equally peculiar, we are informed that the scooter "broke in two" but we are given no information on her injuries, other than "they are considered not life-threatening." This seems to be an awfully mild - and vague - description for personal injuries, given that the scooter broke in two.
One still wonders how a person without a vehicle wrapped around them (meaning unrestricted vision) and, presumably, a red light, could miss something the size of a MetroRail train.
06 September 2008
Danger Train apparently strikes pedestrian; KPRC website pulls story (updated)
Earlier in the week, the Danger Train apparently struck a pedestrian.
A version was also posted to MSNBC.
Nothing on the web ever truly goes away, which may come as news to the KPRC web editor (as well as Richard Justice). But wouldn't it be nice if someone elaborated on this news, instead of trying (unsuccessfully) to pull the news story?
ANNE LINEHAN ADDS: In the forum, Royko notes that in spite of the general local media blackout on Danger Train accidents, they are still happening:
How many have heard about the 39 tram incidents in 2008?
Well, none of us have heard of the 39 accidents because local media isn't interested in reporting them, and METRO definitely isn't interested in sharing them, unless there's a TXPIA involved.
Be sure to follow the link to see some of the Danger Train "highlights" so far this year.
07 March 2006
Rodeo fans need to watch out for the Danger Train
A truck turning into the Reliant Stadium parking lot collided with a Metro rail train today.
Rodeo traffic along Fannin was slowed because of the accident, but no one was injured.
Jim McElhaney, who was driving the truck, said he was turning into the rodeo grounds to pick up a friend for lunch when his truck hit the train.
He said the driver of the train saw he was turning and tried to brake, but couldn't stop in time.
KEVIN WHITED ADDS: Today, Ken Hoffman wrote about his exciting experience with the Danger Train:
I used to make fun of the idiot drivers who get hit by Houston's light-rail train. You'd have to be the world's worst driver to be involved in a train-car accident.
The trains run on tracks, so they can't swerve into another lane and hit you. The trains make a lot of noise with bells and whistles. They're big. They have lights. They have blinking guard rails.
And everybody knows the trains run on Main Street, right?
For the life of me, I can't understand how 122 idiot drivers (so far) could hit the train.
Saturday afternoon, I almost became Idiot No. 123.
Usually I avoid Main Street in downtown altogether; it's not worth the risk. Milam, Louisiana, Travis and Smith get me where I need to go, and they don't have trains on them.
But Saturday, I wasn't concentrating. I had just gotten a new cell phone that has photos and text messaging and a hundred other things I'll never use. My old phone was technologically one step behind smoke signals.
So I was half driving, half playing with the phone and half dancing to a really hot disco song on the radio.
Anyway, I wound up at a red light on Main Street ... I didn't see the warning sign ... I pulled up too far ... and ...
Lights starting flashing and the railroad crossing guard came down BEHIND me. The train was coming. I couldn't back up. I thought I was trapped.
I figured, this is it: See you on the 10 p.m. news.
I put the phone down and did an escape maneuver with my car that would make Smokey and the Bandit proud. Good thing there wasn't a camera on that corner. I'd be paying tickets for the next 10 years.
That's how idiot drivers can have an accident with trains. They're not paying attention. Like I wasn't paying attention.
I have to disagree with Hoffman somewhat. There are two rail intersections that I can use on my daily commute (Main/Richmond and Fannin/San Jacinto/Wentworth), and because of traffic getting backed up and short signals, I've seen some pretty interesting situations develop that weren't entirely the fault of drivers (although I haven't seen a crash yet). While idiot drivers have certainly contributed their part to the total number of crashes, the dangerous, poorly-conceived at-grade design has also contributed.
19 June 2010
Sit and Spin on some online travel mag and the Danger Train
METRO'S SIT AND SPIN BLOG* excitedly points out that some online travel magazine touts the Danger Train as a great way to "see the sights" in Houston.
Our advice to sensible people is to ignore any travel magazine that tells you a one-line "rail system" that is only 7.5 miles long in a city with Houston's sprawl is useful for seeing the city's sights.
* If the "New METRO" is so concerned about being accountable and transparent to the public, could someone PLEASE tell us why this blog still exists?
21 June 2005
METRO train operators disregard traffic control signals
KPRC-2 reports again on METRO's problem with train operators who are not heeding traffic control signals:
Operators of METRORail trains are running red lights and putting people's lives in danger, the Local 2 Troubleshooters reported in an exclusive story Monday.
A camera on a train seen running a red light at Main and Pierce streets on Friday captured video of an operator blowing through a red light.
"It was really kind of frightening because I am looking at the light thinking, 'Wait a minute. Wait a minute. (My) light is green.' I was watching it as the train went through and still it was green," witness Dale Higginbotham told Local 2.
After experiencing the near miss, Higginbotham called the Troubleshooters, who obtained a copy of the video taken on board the train.
METRO's Senior Vice President of Operation David Feeley told Local 2 the driver was suspended without pay after reviewing the video.
Feeley said Friday's incident was not an isolated case -- that it was the second time in the same week that the transit system caught a light-rail conductor running a red light.
"I am going to tighten up the work rules and tighten up the discipline," the METRO officials said.
Feeley, who recently joined METRO, said things are changing at the transit system. He said under current rules, light-rail operators are given a warning the first time they are caught running a red light.
"The discipline is going to be a little more swift and a little more aggressive. It's not going to be a warning. It's going to be serious stuff," Feeley said.
Let's all hope that it's more serious than the discipline meted out to municipal workers who fabricated test results in the HPD crime lab.
08 February 2010
Danger Train, METRO bus collide near the METRO Palace
Remind us again why so many smart Houtopians think building rail at grade down busy streets is such a good idea?
The spin that eventually comes from METRO's massive PR shop should prove interesting, at least.
ANNE LINEHAN ADDS: Maybe Chief Lambert can explain why METRO's own bus drivers don't understand safety.
UPDATE (02/09/10): Chron print editors thought the story so important they buried it on B3 (with a B1 photo refer).
25 January 2009
Houston METRO officer represents Houston well in DC
A few days ago, Jason blogged about the Houston METRO officer who saved a woman who was about to have an unfortunate encounter with a train.
As it turns out, officer Eliot Swainson was one busy guy helping save D.C. residents:
Less than 24 hours after saving a woman who fell in front of a Washington subway train, a Houston, Texas, transit cop was at it again.
Moments after leaving an interview Wednesday about his heroics at the train station, Houston Metro Officer Eliot Swainson helped victims escape an early morning fire at a Washington row house.
Swainson, who was deputized to help with crowds at President Obama's inauguration, and two Washington transit officers noticed smoke pouring from the row house in northwest Washington.
"We just pounded on doors and stuff," he said. "We couldn't get into the unit that was actually burned -- there was just too much smoke coming out of there."
D.C. residents are surely thankful for Officer Swainson's assistance.
Now if you don't mind, we'd like him back, thanks! He's a man who's much too useful to be in D.C. We'll happily trade you Queen Sheila and other useless pols.
14 February 2006
METRO's planning a celebration
The Chronicle's Ken Hoffman reports that METRO is planning a big celebration:
METRO is throwing an outdoor 7 1/2 -mile-long party Feb. 27 to celebrate the 20-millionth passenger climbing aboard its light-rail train. METRO stat freaks say that'll be the day it happens.
The lucky passenger will receive two tickets on a Continental flight. If Victoria Osteen wins, there could be trouble.
There will be bands playing on all the train platforms between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Local pro athletes and media superstars will hand out scratch-off cards to hordes of METRO riders and fans. Prizes include a $500 gift certificate at Foley's, Houston Texans tickets, Houston Comets tickets and museum passes.
I've agreed to do this on one condition: The train operator promises not to hit me.
This self-congratulatory celebration sounds expensive. It's nice to see METRO being such a mindful steward of the public's transit money.
UPDATE (02-16-2006): METRO's Raequel Roberts informs us that the various prizes were donated, and that no public funding was involved.
21 June 2007
METRO fires train operator
KHOU-11's Jason Whitely reports that METRO has fired train operator LaShonda Gordon following a wrong-track incident in May:
Gordon is telling her story here for the first time.
“I blew my horn,” she remembered. “He gave me a proceed sign to come through and I did. I crossed over from Track 1 to Track 2 and I thought ‘I don’t remember getting a command to crossover.’”
She didn’t get one.
As 11 News first reported, a crew was working on the switch and mistakenly left it open causing Gordon’s northbound light rail train, carrying 180 passengers, to move over to the southbound track.
“I’m trying to call on the radio but there were a lot of people on the radio at this time,” Gordon recalled as soon as she crossed over. “I don’t know who was talking or what but I couldn’t get through. So I called them on my cell phone.”
Her personal cell phone, a pink Sanyo, is how Metro found out.
When our story prompted the transit agency to call a news conference on May 21, Metro bragged its redundant safety procedures prevented disaster.
Gordon’s call evidently did.
The switch crew didn’t realize the mistake, neither did the flagger and the Metro controller at Transtar never noticed the train on the wrong track.
Of all those people, LaShonda Gordon, the only one to apparently recognize the problem, was also the only one fired.
Just another METRO fiasco. Nothing to see here (say the METRO PR folks), move along.
The Chronicle's Rad Sallee reports on the firing here.
11 May 2005
Light rail train claims first fatality
(image via KPRC-2)
The first fatality in a Metro light rail accident happened overnight Tuesday at the intersection of Main and Jefferson in downtown Houston.
A pickup truck and a Metro light rail train collided at the intersection of Jefferson and Main.
Witnesses told police Jesse Villareal was driving his white pickup truck eastbound on Jefferson. They say everyone behind him stopped for a red light, but he went through at the same time a southbound train entered the intersection.
Police say the front car slammed into the driver's side door, pushing the truck 50 feet down the rail and killing Villareal instantly. At full speed the trains go about 40 mph.
The train derailed from the impact of the crash.
At the time, the train carried 12 passengers, and four went to the hospital Tuesday night with minor injuries.
Critics blame the record number of accidents on the system's at-grade rail design, with some nicknaming the $324 million MetroRail "The Danger Train." Questions also have been raised about confusing signage and traffic lights along the rail line. Additionally, MetroRail tracks share the left-turn lanes with motorists in the Texas Medical Center area.
That's a fair synopsis of the criticism.
MORE WEBLOG COMMENTARY: Lone Star Times.
26 July 2008
The joy of riding public transportation
We've noted before that most people who say they want more mass transit are hoping other people will use it. Ninety-five percent of the driving public has no intention of giving up their personal transportation freedom.
Recently Metro's blogger Mary Sit wrote a post about mass transit etiquette:
Once on board, move to the back when more commuters step on. Let exiting commuters disembark before you step on the train. Don't stand directly in front of the train doors - stand to the side of the doors to give room for those on the train to step off. There have been many times when I've tried to exit, and there are bodies standing directly in front of the doors, leaving me little space to walk off the train and onto the platform.
More suggestions from the Los Angeles Times reporter: Don't shout, don't shove, once on-board, step away from the doors. Don't swing a huge handbag or backpack around - it could hit someone. And offer your seat to the elderly, pregnant women or disabled.
Sounds like fun! Especially when one reads the post's comments. Here's a gem:
Another suggestion is to carry some hand sanitizer with you. I was riding a train a couple of weeks ago and a man put his hand down his rear end and then proceeded to go all through the car and wipe his excrement on all the handrails. Since then I started carrying a small bottle.
Which reminds me of a comment one of the guys at the Power Line blog recently made:
One of the liberals' favorite antidotes to high gas prices is public transportation. If we would only ride buses and subways, they say, we'd barely notice $4 a gallon prices. Besides, there is something about seeing people crammed together in equal discomfort on public transportation that liberals just like.
Maybe that explains why METRO CEO Frank J. Wilson has a $12,000 per year car allowance even though he lives near a Park and Pillage.
22 November 2005
Metro's swift, aggressive discipline isn't so swift or aggressive
A while back Metro promised to crack down on MetroRail drivers who were running stop signals, after a KPRC-2 investigation.
The light-rail train ran a stop signal at a busy intersection near downtown -- a horizontal bar meant stop, but the driver kept going.
METRO said the train was also speeding throughout the route along Main Street and near the Museum District. It was clocked going as fast as 48 mph in a 35 mph speed limit zone.
Records showed the train operator was also driving with his cab door open talking to passengers, which is another major violation.
It all happened during one afternoon's train ride.
METRORail supervisors agreed and filed paperwork to fire the train operator, Charles Lightfoot, for his "willing disregard for public safety," and said he should never be rehired.
Earlier this year, METRO leaders promised tough disciplinary action after the Troubleshooters uncovered METRORail operators running stop signals at intersections across town.
"I happen to think when a train runs a signal, it's not a casual event, it's a life-threatening event," said Dave Feeley, senior vice president of METRO operations.
So, what happened to Lightfoot? Houstonians are still paying him to work and he's still carrying METRO passengers across town.
The Troubleshooters spotted Lightfoot eating a sandwich in the driver's seat of his new job -- driving a METRO bus. They followed him on his north Houston route to downtown Houston.
In less than one hour, he ran a red light in Midtown, according to the Troubleshooters' video.
Ah yes. Like any good government agency, Metro rarely fires anyone; Metro just shuffles the players around.
"He was never completely terminated because I put him back to work," Feeley said.
Feely is the METRO vice president who promised tough discipline for rail violators.
"We all make mistakes, as long as they're not repeated over and over and over again," he said.
Oh my. Where to begin? It's not okay for private citizens to run red lights, but as long as a Metro driver doesn't repeat the mistake over, and over, and over, it's okay? How many "overs" are needed before a termination WILL be considered? Will VP Feeley get serious when Lightfoot (what a name!) crashes into someone?
By the way, in the latest MetroRail crash data released to Tom Bazan (through an open records request, of course), an accident on September 8, 2005, at Main and Leeland was caused by (in Metro's own words):
Train proceeded through intersection hit by vehicle - not vertical bar.
There was not a vertical bar. That means the MetroRail driver ignored the stop signal. And it should read, "Train proceeded through intersection and hit vehicle," not "hit by vehicle" since the train ignored the stop signal.
KEVIN WHITED ADDS: When I crossed midtown starting my commute to work today (a little before 7 am), the lights were flashing at Elgin and Main. Thankfully, there was no Danger Train in sight. Still, I have to say that the situation was pretty scary, and I hadn't even seen this report yet! I hope METRO gets that light fixed ASAP. And the light-running problems too!
04 September 2006
Danger Train safety streak comes to an end
On the first of the month, METRO issued a press release which was picked up by the local media. METRO was celebrating the fact that the Danger Train enjoyed its first full month with no collisions with vehicles/wheelchairs/people:
METRO posted its first accident-free month on METRORail in August – an achievement it couldn’t have reached without the help of Houston’s motorists. By observing signs and traffic signals drivers helped keep themselves and METRORail running safe and accident-free since July 7, 2006.
Safety, though, is a team effort and METRO also wants to thank the entire Rail Operations organization, the Safety department and METRO Police for this accomplishment.
KTRK-13 reports that the streak has come to an end:
One of METRO's trains is in need of some repairs after it slammed into a car near downtown.
The crash happened Sunday afternoon on San Jacinto near Southmore. Police say the driver, who was not familiar with the area, stopped on the tracks. The train hit the car before the driver was able to get out of the way.
At-grade rail along a busy traffic corridor is a recipe for trouble, however much METRO has decided to emphasize safety since this line opened.
Posted by Kevin Whited @ Train safety streak comes to an end"> 09/04/06 10:50 AM | Comments (6)
06 October 2004
Adding insult to injury
A 57-year-old Houston woman received a citation from Metro police Monday after she walked into the side of a moving light rail train at Reliant Park Station. The woman, ticketed for failing to obey the pedestrian-crossing signal, was struck by a northbound train entering the station about 8:15 a.m. She received minor injuries and was taken to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where she was treated and released.
One hopes the overbearing Metro cops at least determined if she was okay before forcing her to sign her citation.
10 March 2008
Chron: Train driver who smashed bicyclist had permission
The driver of a light rail train that struck a cyclist in the Texas Medical Center had received permission to pass with caution through a track signal that warns not to proceed, according to documents on the Feb. 8 accident.
Metro previously said the accident was preventable and that the train operator received a five-day suspension and 40 hours of retraining. Metro also released a video that shows the train moving forward while a horizontal bar signal, similar to a red light for motorists, is visible ahead.
The police report quotes Granderson: "I was told to go through the horizontal bar, and as I was passing the crosswalk, a lady on a bicycle rolled out in front of me."
A report on her disciplinary action confirms that Granderson "had been given authorization to pass horizontal bar signals as needed, due to an existing emergency situation."
Metro has said there was an earlier accident on the line that had delayed Granderson's train and others.
"She sounded her gong and proceeded southbound," the report says. "A bicyclist entered the path of the train and Operator Granderson was unable to stop short of making contact."
Since the accident, it says, she has been "counseled regarding the importance of proceeding cautiously" when authorized to go through a bar signal.
Training reports as late as Feb. 22 grade her as satisfactorily performing supervised runs on the line.
That column raises at least as many questions as it answers.
At a newspaper with editors, an editor might have insisted that the following questions actually be answered:
1) Did the earlier accident on the line cause signal malfunctions that contributed to this accident? 2) Did the earlier accident on the line lead METRO to disregard safety in order to try to "make up" for delays? 3) WHO gave the train operator the order to go through the horizontal stop signal? 4) Were any personnel assigned to stations and traffic intersections to help train operators monitor potential safety issues with the train disregarding the horizontal stop signals? 5) Do the safety issues raised by this preventable accident caution against building even more at-grade rail lines in the middle of busy pedestrian/traffic corridors?
Sadly, the Chronicle doesn't seem to have any editors these days, and reporters rarely venture into territory that might be critical of METRO, so those questions went unanswered in this column.
We looked to the METRO blog today hoping to see some elaboration/spin on these issues, but instead, METRO's expensive blogger has a features-style post about a thirteen-year-old who really likes METRO.
Dwight Silverman should sign that kid up as a featured Chron transit blogger. He'd be a perfect (uncritical) fit for the local Hearst daily and its featured blogger stable!
BLOGVERSATION: Lose an Eye, It's a Sport.
18 August 2008
Frank Wilson: Go for the greed
As he was speaking to the Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Southwest Houston Chamber of Commerce last week, Frank "Procurement Disaster" Wilson tried to encourage Asian business owners to get some of the $2 billion worth of business five new light rail lines are generating:
"If you've never ridden the train in your life, or if you don't even like the train, look at this from self-interest and greed," said Wilson. "This program is as real as it gets. It's the time for you to start focusing on how to get involved, not just as users."
Sheesh. Between Frank Wilson and Raequel "9-volt battery" Roberts, METRO sure has picked some winners.
21 January 2009
METRO officer saves woman at DC Inaugural
With a lot of negative press on the Metro Police Department I found a positive article. Metro Police Officer (yes our Harris County Metropolitan Police Department) Eliot Swainson was in Washington D.C. working with their transit police for the inauguration of President Obama. Officer Swainson heard a woman was stuck on the track as a train approached. Unable to pry her from the track, Officer Swainson pushed the woman into a crawl space as the train passed over. Afterward, the 68-year old woman was rescued and transported to the hospital with minor injuries. So, kudos to Houston Metro Officer Swainson, a Texas officer who did an outstanding job in Washington D.C.
27 January 2005
Packin' heat on the Danger Train
The Chronicle is reporting that Metro will allow riders to carry licensed handguns on board its trains and buses:
Metro board members are expected to vote this afternoon to repeal the restriction, which has been in effect since 1995 after the Legislature voted to allow licensed owners to carry concealed handguns in most public places.
State Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who wrote the legislation as a state senator, has been a vocal critic of bans such as those adopted by Metro and many other government entities in Texas in response to the "right-to-carry" law.
He, the Texas State Rifle Association and four licensed Harris County gun owners sued Metro in 2003, seeking to overturn the ban. Now that Metro is dropping its policy, he said, he plans to challenge similar restrictions in other cities, probably starting with Austin's Capital Metro.
"They implemented these when there was collective hysteria from detractors, who said there would be blood in the streets and shootouts at every four-way stop," Patterson said. "None of that proved true."
Patterson said the ban was essentially unenforceable and that many Metro riders already carry pistols.
"It was a prohibition against undetectable conduct because, by law, it is required for it to be concealed, to begin with," he said. "I have carried my handgun on Metro buses on at least three occasions because I knew it to be an unlawful restriction."
Metro doesn't even check to see if every passenger on the train has paid the fare, so it's not surprising Metro police haven't been checking for weapons.
I wonder if the "collective hysteria from detractors" included local media? Maybe we should keep our eyes peeled for a Chronicle editorial on this, although it is a local topic, so we'll need to give the editors at least a week to write one up.
("Danger Train" is what Kevin Whited has long called the light rail train on his PubliusTX blog.)
UPDATE: The Chronicle story now notes that the Metro board unanimously approved the policy change.
22 February 2006
Mayor White explains why Houston needs surveillance cameras
Here is another of those Dallas vs. Houston stories and a quote from Mayor White that apparently explains why Houston needs surveillance cameras:
Dallas leaders concede that Houston is ahead in its downtown revitalization. Houston's Main Street has had a facelift which brought eclectic restaurants. But both cities are struggling with how you get residents to spend time and money in downtown consistently.
“The more people that come downtown the safer it is. Because people in a crowd look after each other. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You see it in other cities in the country, citizens looking after each other,” said Bill White, Houston mayor.
So, if more people would head downtown and play Dodge the Danger Train, then Houston wouldn't need surveillance cameras?
(Oh, and some Dallas dude says Houston has peaked and Dallas hasn't. Therefore, he concludes, Dallas is more fun than Houston.)
28 February 2005
City closes First Ward streets to reduce train noise
This is interesting: Houston has closed some residential street railroad crossings in the First Ward to reduce train noise:
Neighbors got the city to close three streets that have railroad crossings.
"As long as it doesn't impede public safety and doesn't provide any detriment to traffic flow then I think we're on to something innovative here," said Houston Councilman Adrian Garcia.
The closings will keep cars from racing through the streets, trying to beat the trains.
Perhaps more than anything it will reduce noise.
Engineers don't have to blast their horns if cars can't cross.
"Of course we'll all appreciate less noise pollution and it being quieter, but I think the overall benefit for the community will be from the safety perspective," said Allison Plantz, First Ward resident.
The street crossing will be closed for 90 days to see if it works. If so, three other street crossings a little farther down the tracks will close as well. Not a moment too soon for long-time residents like Margo Childs who has lived along the tracks for years.
22 October 2004
A busy day for MetroRail
It's been a dangerous day around Houston's light rail line.
And in an unrelated incident, KHOU-11 reports that a man has been shot while waiting for the train:
A man was rushed to the hospital after reportedly being shot at a light rail station Friday evening.
Witnesses say the suspects were on bicycles.
It happened around 6:30 p.m. at the station near Wheeler and Main.
Witnesses say two men on bicycles rode by and one of them apparently fired the shot.
The motive is unclear.
At last check, police were still searching for the suspects.
The shooting is the latest incident at a train station. Other people have reported being held up. Obviously, Metro's response to that problem has not been adequate if people are now being shot.
Instead of focusing Metro police manpower on ticketing jaywalkers and people who clip the train, the city needs to get serious about protecting riders of the train.
(10-23-2004 Update) Laurence Simon points out in the comments that MetroRail actually shut down service for a time on Thursday night after Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, stranding passengers downtown watching the game and leaving them uninformed as to the problem:
Service was suspended for safety reasons just as the contest ended about 10:15 p.m., however, and it took almost 40 minutes for a train to arrive at Preston Station to ferry the disappointed fans home. Some irate passengers complained there was no sight of an obstruction on the tracks and no communication from the Metropolitan Transit Authority about the reason for the wait.
Several said the continuing troubles with rail service during downtown events make them less likely to ride again.
"I don't appreciate how the city is like, 'Come downtown and use rail,' but you don't have enough respect for your patrons to let us know what's going on," a visibly upset Cassie Reid of Midtown told a MetroRail supervisor at Preston Station. "I could have walked home by this point."
The supervisor had just arrived at the platform — more than 30 minutes into the delay — to inform the 100-plus waiting riders that rail service north of Jefferson Street had been suspended and there was a bus available on Fannin Street to ferry them to the Downtown Transit Center.
Only minutes after more than 50 people left the station and began walking the block to Fannin, a train finally pulled in. Only 50 or so people were left to board it, and the trip south was hampered by numerous delays. From the end of the game, it took almost an hour for the train to reach Midtown, only a mile away.
The affluent upwardly mobile types who wanted a toy train and disdain buses must have been quite upset at having to rely on the bus once again.
A Metro executive added the following:
None of the incidents appeared to affect the rail line, but Arndt said "we will always err on the side of safety."
Except, of course, for laying the rail line down a busy, narrow traffic corridor in a manner that, 69 incidents later, has proven to be dangerous.
12 February 2006
KHOU: No cops to train neighborhood patrols
KHOU-11's Wendell Edwards reports on another manifestation of HPD's manpower shortage:
Every night without fail, Jimmie Elie just doesn’t lock her door — she barricades it.
“I feel very secure once I’m inside,” Elie said. “It’s the outside I’m worried about.”
Jimmie Elie barricades her door every night.
For 20 years she’s lived in a patio home in southwest Houston.
For protection, she has bars on her doors and an alarm system for her house, and recently she’s added bars on her front windows.
“Yes, they’ve tried to break in; that’s when I put the burglar bars inside,” Elie said.
But she said it hasn’t been enough.
She wants even more protection, something she’s been trying to get for more than a year: a citizen patrol group.
HPD helps train neighborhood groups who want to form citizen patrol groups, but lately the police have been too busy.
“I think it’s money; I think it’s not a priority,” said southwest Houston resident Keysha Booker.
Booker is an attorney and lives around the corner.
HPD said citizen’s groups are important, but the department right now is focused on increasing its staff and reducing violent crime first.
“Right now they are saying that they don’t have the manpower for the new classes,” Elie said. “All we can do is wait and hope that is happens soon ... and lock up.”
MayorWhiteChiefHurtt can tout their new acronyms all they want, but unfortunately acronyms are no substitute for cops -- in this case, cops to train citizens to help them fight crime in their neighborhoods. It's unfortunate that dealing with HPD's manpower shortage was not a priority in the first two years of Mayor White's administration.
20 September 2004
What is an accident?
Two people suffered minor injuries after a car ran a red light and collided with a MetroRail train today in downtown Houston. The accident was the 61st involving a light rail train.
The accident occurred at about 4 p.m. at Main and Pierce. A northbound rail car collided with the car after the female driver failed to stop at a red light, said Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Chief Tom Lambert.
I highlight the term "accident" because I'm not quite sure what that means in METRO/Chronicle parlance.
The newspaper previously defined reportable incident, collision, and attempted suicide as an adjunct to another collision report:
Reportable incident: Involves at least one injury or property damage of more than $1,000. MetroRail has had 60 reportable incidents since the Main Street line was completed in October 2003.
Collision: Any reportable incident resulting from an accident. MetroRail has had 59 collisions.
Attempted suicide: Any reportable incident resulting from a person intentionally crossing a train's path. MetroRail has had one attempted suicide.
Presumably, an accident is an unintentional collision of person or vehicle with the train, but it might have helped to have a definition. Even if we rule out the suicide attempt (which seems intentional and not accidental), isn't the true number of accidents at least 62?
Not to be overly pedantic, but if the Chronicle is going to insist on running boxes with definitions, shouldn't the newspaper make some effort to report according to those definitions?
Surely they're not just making it up as they go along.
22 September 2008
METRO's transit "backbone" up and running again
After taking more than a week off, the Danger Train will operate on its regular schedule today.
Good thing METRO had plenty of buses around as backup!
03 November 2004
Haven't they had enough practice?
Metro has announced they will be conducting an emergency drill on November 10:
METRO will conduct an emergency response drill from 1 to 2:30 p.m. November 10 adjacent to the Fannin South parking area at the south end of the METRORail line.
The drill will center on a simulated accident between a METRORail train and a passenger car. The drill will simulate a fatality in the passenger car and a loss of power to the train. The purpose of the exercise is to verify the ability of METRORail personnel to respond to a major collision and power loss on the rail line.
The drill will be centered at Fannin and Bellfort, south of the Fannin South Station, and will have no effect on METRORail service.
Media are welcome to cover the drill, and are asked to set up about 12:35, before the exercise begins, on the southeast corner of Fannin and Bellfort. Parking will be available in the Fannin South lot.
I wonder if Metro Police Chief Lambert considers blogHOUSTON to be media? Probably not. We may have to cover the exercise regardless.
After 69 accidents, we expect the emergency personnel to perform flawlessly.
28 February 2007
Chron reports record ridership for the Danger Train
The Chronicle reports that the Danger Train saw record ridership on Tuesday:
Metro set a weekday record Tuesday with 56,388 passenger boardings on MetroRail.
Many of the passengers were attending opening night of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Tuesday was the highest, single-day weekday total in MetroRail's history, surpassing last Friday's single-day weekday total of 54,193 passenger boardings, according to Metro.
Tuesday's record was exceeded only by Super Bowl XXXVIII on Sunday, Feb.1, 2004, when MetroRail saw 61,005 passenger boardings.
It will be interesting to see if February year-on-year ticket vending machine revenues for METRO rail show any sort of increase, or continue the declines. It would be nice (it might even be considered a public service!) if the area's newspaper of record printed those figures regularly, since they are an important indicator of the health of METRO's services. Oh well, at least the Chronicle has D.C. and Middle East bureaus!