At Othello, blocking at least some of the track. No further details at this time.

Update: Normal service has resumed.

Update: Sound Transit has released for the following statement:

At 4:20 p.m. today a northbound Link light rail train struck a northbound vehicle that apparently ran a red light to make an illegal left hand turn at Othello Street South. The driver of the vehicle was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, and medics tended to three Link passengers who had minor injuries. Local news media covered the incident. Light rail trains had to single-track around the accident, causing delays, until the scene was cleared just after 5 p.m.

69 Replies to “Car vs. Link Collision”

    1. Any word on link arrival information? I remember a month ago there was talk of some testing, just wondering if anyone has heard any further info from ST.

      1. Why wasn’t this feature included from the onset? This type of technology seems like it was perfected a long time ago on other systems, I mean this is pretty much Mass Transit 101 stuff, right?

        Additionally, anything more than a 2-3 minute delay onboard should be explained clearly…it’s very frustrating waiting without info.

      2. I should add, that on the renovated transit mall in Portland, they even have arrival info for the buses on really cool (and big) flat screen panels at the stops. The panels even give the info for subsequent arrivals and where they are going. It’s pretty neat-o.

  1. The Rider Alert from ST reads: “Due to a minor incident near the Othello Station, please expect 10-15 minute delays on Link light rail until further notice. Updates will be provided as they become available.”

      1. We waited at Westlake Station for about 10 minutes around 5:10. They really should have made additional announcements when the delay stretched on–there were people said they had been there for an hour and hadn’t seen any trains.

      2. Even after the snowstorm, has Metro not figured out how to change the announcements on the tunnel loudspeaker?

        People were left for multiple hours in that storm, while their buses passed by above. A simple announcement telling us to head upstairs would have been the minimal level of politeness.

        Again, fix the loudspeaker, or fire the person responsible for failing to fix them.

  2. No notice given in DSTT. I just left the tunnel after waiting 15 min and no trains. Southbound platform packed @ Westlake. Why can’t there be better communication to those waiting in the tunnel?

    1. It sounds like the signs did explain the delay, probably shortly after you left.

  3. Alert on Sound Transit’s website:

    “Central Link Light Rail – Minor Link light rail delays

    Posted Date: 04/02/10 – 4:35 p.m.

    Due to a minor incident near the Othello Station, please expect 10-15 minute delays on Link light rail until further notice. Updates will be provided as they become available.”

    The story on Seattle Times:

    “A collision between a Sound Transit light-rail train and a car has caused delays for Friday afternoon commuters going through Seattle’s Rainier Valley.

    An agency alert called it “a minor incident” and forecast delays of 10-15 minutes, though after past collisions, delays have been somewhat longer than the initial guess.

    Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said based on initial reports, it appears a motorist turned left into the path of a train going the same direction, in the median of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South near Othello Station, at about 4:20 p.m.”

    Lesson: Go to the Seattle Times for more detailed information on Sound Transit delays and blockages. Don’t go to Sound Transit.

    1. Sound Transit is not trying to give a detailed explanation of whats going on, they are just trying to alert riders of the delay.

      Each is providing a different and necessary service to the city.

      1. Wrong.

        The fact is Sound Transit gives worse alerts of their own service disruptions than a local newspaper.

      2. What information is in the Time’s report that’s not in the service alert that a person waiting for the train would need to know? Nothing. The service alerts are for conveying pertinent information, not Bruce Gray quotes.

      3. If you want to refute me point, use logic. Don’t just say i’m wrong.

        The Seattle times is trying to inform residents of happenings in their city, so that they are more educated. Sound Transit is trying to give basic, simple information so that riders can quickly figure out another way to get where they need to go. A busy traveler does not want the full story, they just want to know whats relevant, and that is that there is a delay.

      4. Sound Transit seriously needs to learn the concept of “Under-promise Over-deliver”.

        10-15 minutes? Don’t promise it unless you are sure the delay is more line 5-10.
        24 hours to load an ORCA card? (More like 48)
        Other examples?

      5. The budget department at ST has it right: Build in a 30% cushion against declining revenue.

        Taxpayers will love it if a project comes in under budget, the bonds are retired early, and the taxes are reduced, er, redirected toward the next priority.

        ST should expect that rail blockages will happen from time to time, and have contingency plans to get passengers moving to their destinations, and let the passengers know that a contingency plan is in effect.

  4. These three images from SDOT web cams indicate a train not moving on one of the tracks. The other track seems to be moving.

    http://www.seattle.gov/trafficcams/images/MLK_Othello.jpg?1270253462055 (5:08pm)

    http://www.seattle.gov/trafficcams/images/MLK_Othello.jpg?1270253744039 (5.15pm)

    http://www.seattle.gov/trafficcams/images/MLK_Othello.jpg?1270254304219 (5:22pm)

    There was a parked vehicle on the roadway in the first two pics.

    The email message from ST I received is this:

    Sent: Friday, April 02, 2010 4:36 PM
    Subject: Rider Alert: Central Link Light Rail
    Anticipate Link delays
    Due to a minor incident near the Othello Station, please expect 10-15 minute delays on Link light rail until further notice. Updates will be provided as they become available.
    Rider Alert: Central Link Light Rail for Sound Transit. A new alert has been posted. http://www.soundtransit.org/alerts

    ===========

    As of 5:30pm, no “all clear” has been issued.

  5. As of 5:32 the train formerly not moving is now gone. I also see that the images I posted above when called up again show only the latest view.

  6. My sweetie was stuck at Stadium Station with no info for about an hour. Just made it home.

  7. Aren’t announcement made over public address systems at the stations? The Link control center must know where all the trains are, and whether they are moving.

  8. I was on one of the trains that stopped at Stadium – the conductor made an announcement but the audio was so low it was barely audible, although I thought he said we would be moving in 5-10 minutes. After a few more minutes the VMS signs in the station mentioned the reason for the delay. I gave up after 15 minutes and took the 7 home.

    1. As usual, Link was stopped, but buses were still running.

      Amtrak trains get stopped by landslides, but buses are still running.

      Sounder trains get stopped by landslides, but buses are still running.

      The S.L.U.T. gets stopped by an emergency vehicle on its tracks, but buses are still running.

      Buses cost a fraction of what trains cost, but buses usually keep running when trains are stopped.

      1. Yes, and buses keep running when the airport is closed, right?

        I was just saying how glad I was that this delay happened at rush hour–not that it wasn’t inconvenient, but there were a lot of alternative buses. If this had been Sunday afternoon there would *not* have been good bus alternatives.

        In theory you can run as many buses worth of service as Link provides (or the streetcar for that matter), but it would be far more expensive and unfortunately no one is proposing that level of funding for KC Metro. I would be happy to support it if they did.

      2. They are far less expensive when you are running them every 1/2 hour, with minimal stop amenities, no proof of payment, are not factoring in road maintenance costs, not factoring in Exxon mobile subsidies, not factoring environmental costs of burning more fuels, not factoring in lower vehicle lifespans, and are running them far slower than trains.

        If you want to compare buses to rail, compare service of equal value.

        Either way, a comparison like this is fruitless and unnecessary, unless you are comparing certain corridors for construction.

      3. SWIFT rapid bus line construction cost: $29.5 million.

        Central Link light rail construction cost: $2.6 BILLION.

        SWIFT is slightly longer than Central Link.

        Operating cost per hour of Link light rail per car is almost three times as expensive as operating cost of an ST Express bus per hour.

      4. 1) CT didn’t dig a tunnel for SWIFT.
        2) CT didn’t build dedicated right of way for SWIFT.
        3) CT didn’t retrofit the DSTT for SWIFT.
        4) CT didn’t overhaul any of the roads that SWIFT travels on (think MLK)

        I suppose if there were already tracks laid for Central Link that nobody was using, there was already a tunnel OR they routed it in a manner that didn’t need tunnels, there was already a signaling system set up, then THAT would be a fair comparison.

      5. We’ve covered this a bunch of times–LRT typically has high initial capital costs (though BRT would too if you built right of way) but pretty much always has lower operating costs over the life of the system. Here’s a paper that covers many US light rail systems:
        http://path.berkeley.edu/informationclearinghouse/brt/nti/brt_lrt.pdf

        There was also a study about how much it would have cost to do MAX-level service on buses over the past decade but I can’t seem to find it right now.

      6. Every day, the 306/312 that I take is late because of traffic.

        When buses get delayed, it is not news, as they get delayed all the time. When trains are delayed it is news, as it happens quite rarely.

      7. Exactly! Its not news when an airplane lands at the correct airport. But, if an airplane goes off course–or crashes!–then it is news.

      8. Trains get delayed all the time. Usually it does not get reported. This was reported because it was an accident — not because there was a delay.

  9. If reporter Mike Lindblom is counting correctly, this is the 7th Link collision accident since opening.

    Compared to the forecast in the Environmental Impact Statement made long before Sound Transit designed its signaling, signs, safety education campaign, etc, this rate of actual collisions is lower.

    I recall the EIS forecasting a collision with car, bike, or pedestrian every 12 days along the at-grade section. Seven collisions in 37 weeks of operation is one every 37 days.

    Credit to Sound Transit for safety efforts yielding a better collision experience than forecast!

    Another point is that the design of the bumpers on the front of Sound Transit’s Kinkisharyo rail cars — covering the coupler — may help explain why people are not getting too badly hurt in the collisions that have occurred.

    As noted at http://www.hubner-germany.com/USA/Company-p-68.html , “In 2005, HUBNER USA implemented a new product line – an energy absorbing bumper for light rail vehicles and trams. The series production has commenced for bumper projects in Phoenix and Seattle.” This bumper is further described at http://www.hubner-germany.com/USA/bumper_lrv.html

    1. Has anyone gone back and looked at the overall accident rate? I think that overall the street is now significantly safer than before Link was built.

      1. I thought even the forecasted rate was lower than the no-build scenario. But I don’t think we’re hearing about car-car or car-ped accidents, so I don’t know what the overall change is.

      1. Even more interesting is that fatality rates per 100 million miles for other modes are even lower:

        http://www.lightrailnow.org/facts/fa_00020.htm

        I’m guessing that light rail must include fatalities of trains hitting cars and pedestrians since rate for light rail is higher than buses. Still, light rail’s rate is less than half of Washington’s motor vehicle rate (which appears to be better than the nationwide average)

        And let the bus vs. rail debate start… (Ok, I’m kidding – but I doubt that will stop you all from hashing that tired debate out again…)

    2. Folded couplers save lives in the unlikely event of a collision. I am trying to remember whether the first collision with a vehicle last year (during non-revenue testing) was before the coupler hoods had been reinstalled. We were running with the couplers extended for quite a while.

    3. Has every automobile collision made news like Link does? no. Car collision are extremely common. That’s why they don’t get on the news.

  10. I would hope they would bill the idiot who cause this for the damage to the trains, signals, tracks, etc but of course this won’t be done sadly.

    1. Does anyone know if this is true or not? Are people not liable for damage to trains from negligent traffic violations? Why wouldn’t they be? Are you not liable for hitting a bus? A police car? Other public vehicles?

      1. The cost of having government lawyers go after the guilty parties may be more than the amount of money that can be gotten out of the guilty parties in civil liability. But hey, garnishing the guilty party’s wages for the rest of her/his natural life would be a darn strong disincentive to hurting our public employees and vehicles.

    1. So you’d be OK that it would have delayed completion decades more, or resulted in even more shortening of the line?

      1. If the construction of an underground LR line was approved, it might’ve added one more year to the timeline; only one friggn’ year. So it would be opening this year; and just imagine, there would be NO car/bus/bicycle/pedestrian accidents that would cause delays, damages, and extra expense for repair. If it were underground, the LR could forget about road crossings and stoplights, and have the trains run at whichever time-intervals they wish.

        You have to think about the future when building rail, which Sound Transit didn’t do.

      2. Actually, the best of all worlds would have been Light Rail built as an elevated line. Out of the way of traffic yet riders would have an awesome view of the neighborhood. Just take a look at Vancouver’s Skytrain. The elevated tracks really do not detract from the neighborhood appeal.

    2. I hadn’t expected this, but I enjoy how much of Link is out of doors. You can look out the windows and get daylight (or night views.) It’s a more pleasant ride experience than being underground. All things considerd Link makes very good time down MLK and the signal synchronization works well. The MLK segment works well and Link will prove to be an incredible asset for this neighborhood.

      1. Rail systems aren’t built for the benefit of a tourist/sightseer wanting a city-wide tour. Rail is mode of rapid-transportation that is a necessity to the city’s workforce and livability.

        I can assure you that the commuters aren’t goggling at the picturesque view of the passing traffic, they’re worrying about the meeting they have in fifteen minutes.

      2. Rail systems aren’t built for the benefit of a tourist/sightseer wanting a city-wide tour. Rail is mode of rapid-transportation that is a necessity to the city’s workforce and livability.

        Ever been on an Amtrak route? Commuters ride those yet do enjoy the scenery.

        I often ride the bus just to explore new areas or learn new things about the areas I usually commute through. That’s one reason, for example, I decided to ride the MT41 and MT347 instead of the CT414.

    3. Central LINK should have followed I-5 and the Duwamish, but Martha Cho’s gentrification-wrapped-in-social-justice-clothing was more important.

      1. That area is about the least dense area in the City.

        No one is talking about the added cost of veering light rail east to the UW and capitol hill, instead of running it on I-5.

        Typical, the north end gets pampered, while the south end has to make due. The north end gets a fully grade separated line, despite cost, while the south end has to make due with at grade light rail, and trains stopping at the O&M facility.

      2. You mean veering it towards the most dense and largest transit rider neighborhoods in the state? Please.

      3. It’s the second highest transit ridership area in the state — that is why Link went down MLK like it did.

        The U is the highest transit ridership area in the state — that is why Link is not following I-5.

        Basically Link is going where the demand is, and that is smart planning.

      4. “Typical, the north end gets pampered, while the south end has to make due. ”

        Getting light rail ten years late and with 3 fewer stations is being pampered? OK.

        When they had to split the initial line in two because of revenue and cost problems they should have built the northern segment first, that’s where the real need is, and where most of Sound Transit’s revenue comes from, but that was politically impossible.

    4. What they should do is quantify how much the delays and accidents cost the passengers and ST. $10/hour/passenger for their time waiting, and whatever overtime or extra staff are required, and something for the system’s reputation and loss of ridership. Add all those up, and the difference between surface and grade-separated is less significant.

      A grade-separated system could also be driverless, which would be a big cost savings and allow the trains to run every five minutes as in Vancouver.

  11. Another one hits the LINK
    Another one hits the LINK

    And another one gone and another one gone.

    Another one hits the LINK!

    Hey, they’re gonna get you too.

    Another one hits the LINK!

    –apologies to Queen and Weird Al

  12. Meanwhile, the needs of the internal cumbustion engine killed five yesterday in Anacortes. But it won’t be reported like that.

    1. Don’t forget the average of 93 people killed on the roads of America each day in auto accidents (based on 2008 numbers from FARS) – not to mention the carnage from associated pollution that is difficult to ferret out from nationwide death statistics.

  13. I saw a very near miss at that intersection the other day. Someone was turning left on a red from Othello to MLK as a train was coming but luckily the train was already going a little bit slower than usually and was able to slow down enough that it didn’t hit the car… Maybe they should outfit it with as many lights as Tacoma Link?

  14. Um, how can these drivers not see the train?…it’s huge and visibility is really good all along the MLK corridor — the trains are never really hidden behind anything. Probably talking on their cellphone.

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