Downtown Phoenix emerges as light rail collision hot spot

One of the 52 light rail collisions this past year (Photo: Emmanuel Lozano, Arizona Republic)

[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic] — The Valley’s light-rail track runs over 20 miles, but almost half of Metro’s crashes in the past year have occurred along a single mile-and-a-quarter stretch that runs through downtown Phoenix.  The L-shaped route from Central Station to Seventh Street is packed with bars, businesses, pedestrians, and distracted motorists, a tough environment for even slow-moving Metro trains.

Of the 52 crashes logged last year — an average of one a week since the $1.4 billion system opened in December 2008 — 23 have been in downtown Phoenix.  Of those, 17 involved right turns along a few blocks of Washington and Jefferson streets.  Metro recorded five crashes at just one corner: Jefferson and First streets.  None of the crashes was fatal.

Phoenix police Lt. Adrian Ruiz says most downtown accidents happen because drivers get confused by unfamiliar streets and because Phoenix drivers have a bad habit of running red lights.  “I see people every day who disregard the no-left-, no-right-turn-on-red signals,” said Ruiz, who runs the department’s transit bureau.  “Drivers in Arizona are used to seeing where they have to go… They get impatient.”

Many of the downtown Phoenix crashes arise from cars making right turns across the tracks.  A red arrow prohibits the maneuver, but split-second instincts and years of conditioning tell drivers it is OK to turn right on red.

Phoenix-area drivers are still making mistakes.  Police have blamed all 52 crashes involving trains on motorists, not rail operators.  In an effort to solve the problems and reduce the number of collisions, engineers, recognizing an emerging pattern, have begun changing signs and signals at accident hot spots.  [Note: Read the the full article at Downtown Phoenix emerges as light rail collision hot spot.]

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