Transportation headlines, February 24

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Today’s Zocalo Public Square profile of a Metro rider: philosophy, science and PB&Js on the train, Hope Street to Lincoln Boulevard. The sandwiches apparently stay in the knapsack, btw 🙂

Metrolink train hits truck, derails in Oxnard; engineer critically injured (L.A. Times) 

A Los Angeles-bound Metrolink train hit a pickup truck towing a 12-foot trailer that was stopped on the tracks in Onxard this morning at a gated crossing, injuring 28 of 51 passengers, reports the Times. Metrolink officials say that the gates and warning lights were working and that the train engineer — among four critically injured — at least had enough warning to begin slowing the train. Three of the four passenger cars on the train ended up on their side. At this point, details are still emerging.

The larger issue: Incidents at rail crossings are a national problem. A Metro North commuter train struck an SUV that had stopped on the tracks north of New York City in January, killing five aboard the train and the motorist. The Federal Railroad Administration reports that each day motorists in the United States encounter 212,000 railroad crossings. By comparison, there are about 38,000 locations where railroad tracks and streets have been separated by bridges. The vast majority of these crossings involve freight railroads. Excerpt from the FRA website:

There have been about 270 deaths a year at public and private grade crossings. FRA, through the efforts of its Highway-Rail Crossing and Trespasser Prevention Division is committed to reducing that number. With the assistance of FRA’s programs, the number of fatalities has gone down by 54 percent over the last two decades.

Trespassing along railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America. Nationally, more than 431 trespass fatalities occur each year, and nearly as many injuries, the vast majority of which are preventable.

The reality is that nearly every 180 minutes in America, someone is hit by a train. Combined, highway-rail crossing and trespasser deaths account for 95 percent of all rail-related deaths and most of these deaths are avoidable.

Many railroad tracks were built decades ago when there was far fewer roads and much less traffic. There are Metro projects to separate some track crossings in the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley via the Alameda Corridor East program that Metro helps fund. That’s good. But I’ll echo the FRA website: most of these incidents appear to be avoidable.

For a non-government point-of-view on this issue, I suggest taking a look at the New York Times’ 2004 series on railroad crossing accidents, which won a Pulitzer Prize.

Please be careful around railroad tracks whether you are a motorist, pedestrian or cyclist.

Follow Metrolink on Twitter for more information about today’s incident and service alerts and, of course, our best wishes that those injured today recover swiftly.

ExpressLanes turns two but traffic hasn’t improved (KPCC)

A very short article. The gist of it: speeds in the ExpressLanes remain consistently over 45mph while average speeds in the general lanes on the 10 freeway between the 605 and Fremont Avenue have declined from 40 mph to 31 mph. Metro officials say traffic has largely increased due to an improving local economy.

Reminder: during peak hours, the ExpressLanes on the 10 freeway are free to carpoolers with three or more occupants. Also, the Silver Line runs between El Monte Station, downtown Los Angeles and Harbor Gateway Transit Center for a $2.45 fare, which is considerably less than the tolls for single motorists. Here are the ExpressLanes website for those who would like to obtain a FasTrak transponder to use the lanes and here’s the map and timetable for the Silver Line.

Chasing Holocaust ghosts down Route 66 (Zocalo Public Square) 

Photo by Summer via Flickr creative commons.

Photo by Summer via Flickr creative commons.

My colleague Marc Littman writes a great piece about his family’s trip from Detroit to their new home in Los Angeles in 1963, with an extended foray on Route 66, which ran from Chicago to L.A. Marc’s dad was a Holocaust survivor and the trip took a month as the family’s old Rambler kept breaking down. Things didn’t get much easier when they landed in L.A. A really nice remembrance about a world and time that seems a million miles away.

Critics fear bullet train will bring urban sprawl to Central Valley (L.A. Times) 

The fear generates from this assertion: the train will be so fast that (for example) a worker in the Silicon Valley could potentially commute from as far as Fresno, where housing is considerably less expensive than in the Bay Area. The train ride would be about an hour whereas the drive is 160 miles through some pretty gnarly traffic knots.

The same argument, I suppose, could be made for those using the train to travel between Bakersfield, the Antelope Valley and Los Angeles. Critics say that this could result in an explosion of new housing in those towns — housing that consumes existing farmland.

Bullet train proponents counter that cities along the high-speed route could actually try to contain sprawl through smart planning efforts — an argument that makes sense.

Interesting stat from the article: about one-third of the farmland in California in 1950 has been lost to urban development and other causes but none of that in the past six years. This, too, makes sense: think of all the urban development and freeway expansion in the time since 1950. Which leads to this question: why is a single bullet train line being singled out as a sprawl generator? Geeshers.


3 replies

  1. Just to quickly nitpick: I think Silver Line fare was raised to $2.50, right? Just checking, since in the article you wrote $2.45.

  2. Why is a bullet train being singled out as a sprawl-generator? Because those whose profits are threatened by a rail transportation renaissance will say or do anything to stop it. Even if some of them owe those profits to the REAL sprawl-generators.

    As to grade crossing safety: never play chicken with something that can weigh hundreds of tons, can do 79 miles per hour, and can take a mile or more to execute a panic stop. (Has anybody here noticed that the ever-popular “Dumb Ways to Die” is also available as an Android or iOS game? And that they’ve come out with a sequel to the game?)