Despite recent crashes, officials say metro Phoenix light rail safety system works

[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic] — A central Phoenix accident last week marked the 13th collision between a Metro light-rail train and another vehicle since the system opened three months ago, renewing safety concerns about trains in streets.  Last Tuesday’s crash puts Metro on pace to almost double the first-year accident rate of Houston, where light rail earned a reputation as the “Wham Bam Tram,” though Houston has a third less track than the Valley.  The latest collision happened when a motorist began an illegal U-turn at a red light near Central High School, police said.

An analysis of police reports shows an early pattern: illegal turns and confused drivers causing accidents.  To date, no light-rail operator has been faulted and none has failed drug or alcohol tests.  Only one accident has raised questions about whether Metro equipment was working properly.

The record tells Metro officials they’ve learned from Houston’s mistakes and have engineered safe trains and traffic signals.  “I don’t think anything has occurred yet that says we’ve had a flawed design,” Metro Chief Executive Officer Rick Simonetta said.  But the sheer number of accidents since the Dec. 27 opening has fueled the ire of light-rail critics, who had warned that trains and cars sharing streets would lead to problems.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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