Photo courtesy of Greg Briggs
Photo courtesy of Greg Briggs

On September 15 at about 2:20pm, a car made an illegal left turn in front of a Link train, causing a 40 minute service disruption in the Northbound direction.

There was minor damage to the car, but thankfully, no injuries.

Seattle Police cited the auto driver for the illegal turn.  Train and car both left under their own power when the police were done.

I’m glad to see that the local media was relatively restrained in their reporting.  Unlike the frenzy surrounding the first few collisions, this one seems to have been treated like any other traffic accident.

As a preemptive move, I’ll link to my previous comments on the safety of running Link down the center of MLK.

19 Replies to “Car vs. Link”

  1. Safety will be improved over time through familiarity and spot fixes for common issues.

    Examples off the top of my head:

    Turn the lights red in ALL directions when trains move through the intersections where illegal left turns are a problem.

    Put gates across the pedestrian crossing at the stadium station. I was walking there yesterday and almost watched a guy talking on his cell phone get mowed down by a Link train. The train was blasting away with his horn but the guy just kept walking…

    1. It’s kinda off-topic, but +1 on the stadium station and ped gates. You get a mass of humanity there containing both small children and plastered adults—seems like a recipe for disaster.

    2. It would also be helpful to transit users if the “investigation time” for a routine, non-injury “fender bender” could reduced. I know supervisors have to be summoned and photos taken, but 40 minutes seems like a long time…

    3. Gates can be dangerous with pedestrians. They make it just as difficult to get out of the trackway as to get in.

      Not saying don’t have them, but do it intelligently.

    1. Sadly, it’ll probably take one or two deaths and maybe a lawsuit to get them installed. I think there has already been one death down there but it was a suicide I believe, so it probably won’t count in the minds of those who make these decisions.

  2. Service delays are going to be problem though. I really wish they had gone with dual tracks, or at least a 3rd rail line for these cases. Also would have helped with an express to tukwila and sea-tac.

      1. car vs. LRV incidents are likely going to prevent rail traffic in both directions … so more switches will have little extra value (other than they are a good idea to have when a portion of a track needs to be taken OoS)

    1. Tri-Met MAX has a lot of crossover switches in the system for just this purpose. Does Link not have them, too? (Not that they are useful every time — often a problem in one direction stops service both ways anyway.)

      1. Link does. Here’s all the switches on Link: In the Pine St Stub Tunnel beyond Westlake Station, Stadium Station pocket track, O&M Facility, on MLK near S Walden right after the elevated transition from Mt Baker Station, MLK at S Willow St just north of Othello Station, Rainier Beach pocket track, S 133rd St near Interurban in Tukwila, entering Tukwila Int’l Blvd Station, and entering SeaTac/Airport Station.

  3. I think it’s been linked to on this blog before: Search YouTube for “Metro’s Greatest Hits” (I think it’s Houston’s Metro Light Rail). Critics called it the Wham-Bam Train

      1. There is a rather horrible youtube of a mother in minivan trying to race a freight train and cut the crossing. Never overestimate the intelligence of your fellow citizens

    1. I was thinking about this. We’re lucky the Rainier Valley stretch is on an elevated median. That reduces the number of crossings and eliminates non-signal left turns. Essentially, there’s no excuse for drivers to make that mistake.

  4. Hey, I saw a car vs. car accident at MLK and South Orcas – those still happen, too. No Link in sight!

  5. A quick look at traffic accident data from SDOT shows that traffic accidents on MLK have dropped significantly if you compare pre-Link to post-Link numbers. Here are some numbers that could use some updating if anyone else has the time:

    Total Accidents

    Total accidents before construction
    1997 367
    1998 337
    1999 343
    2000 310
    2001 308
    2002 312
    2003 316

    Average 327 / year

    Total accidents after construction (July 1, 2007 to December 31,2008)

    2007 48**
    2008 107

    Average 102/year

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