Rail Concerns

After 17 rail accidents in one month, METRO reemphasizes safety campaign

After 17 rail accidents in one month, METRO emphasizes safety campaign

light rail, METROrail, train, SUV, crash, April 2013
METRORail crashes have occurred regularly since the system opened in 2004, including this crash from April 2013, but June saw a marked increase in accident frequency. Photo courtesy of KHOU Houston/Channel 11

Alarmed by a record 17 accidents involving METRORail trains, pedestrian and automobile drivers in one month, officials have reemphasized a safety campaign to help prevent future incidents. The agency's "See Tracks? Think Train!" initiative includes a rail safety video from the U.S. Department of Transportation illustrating risky actions some pedestrians and drivers take along the rails that could result in injury or death. 

 

 

After launching two new METRORail lines — the Southeast (Purple) Line and East End (Green) Line — in late May, METRO experienced a sharp spike in crashes involving their trains in June, with more than double the number of crashes in any other month in the past two years.

Metro recorded a total of 17 accidents in June — only the third time the number of accidents exceeded 9 in a month since the rail's opening in 2004 — including crashes with 13 vehicles, three pedestrians and one bicyclist, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. A June 9 accident near NRG Park left one pedestrian dead after he reportedly walked in front of the train.

 Nine of the accidents were on the Red Line — formerly the Main Street Line, which has been operational since 2004 — while the other eight happened on the new lines.  

Nine of the accidents were on the Red Line — formerly the Main Street Line, which has been operational since 2004 — while the other eight happened on the new lines. Of these eight accidents, seven of them occurred in downtown and only one took place further down the East End Line at Harrisburg and Adams Street.

While June's accident rate is significant, it may simply be an aberration and not be an indicator of a long-term problem. As of July 24, only five METRORail accidents had been reported for the month, which falls well within the normal range of roughly three to six monthly accidents, the Chronicle reports. METRO officials did not immediately return a call from CultureMap seeking an update of the number of accidents for the month.

In their continuing efforts to educate the community about rail safety, METRO officials gathered along the Purple Line near the University of Houston on Tuesday to share ongoing initiatives, including educational programs to distribute 10,000 safety guides for drivers and cyclists to churches, community centers and schools along the light rail lines.

Officials also highlighted the agency's school safety program — launched in 2012 — with more than 34,000 student participants from 46 elementary, middle and high schools. METRO has distributed 20,000 newsletters and safety materials at PTO meetings and school events and included safety information in 78,000 City of Houston utility bills. Officials indicated that these efforts would continue.

"Safety is our number one priority at METRO and we never stop looking at ways we can improve our overall safety for people who use our system and the public as a whole," said President and CEO, Tom Lambert, in a press release.

"We want to make sure we aggressively and continuously communicate our message through education."