UPDATE: THE TRACKS HAVE BEEN REOPENED

Due to a fatal accident between Puyallup and Tacoma, Sounder service is delayed over an hour and trains are being turned at Puyallup. It is unknown at this time if Cascades trains will run as scheduled to Portland.

Also, no trains will run to Vancouver BC today or tomorrow as emergency repairs in White Rock continue.

48 Replies to “Rider Alert: Another Tough Day to Take the Train”

  1. Why is an hour-long shutdown of a multi-track railway necessary?

    The engines have data recorders which will ascertain the speed of the train and when brakes applied. I believe most also have cameras which provide video. The train is bound to its tracks and is known not to be able to stop quickly and has right of way.

    What societal value is generated by taking the railway out of service and delaying thousands of people? What cannot be investigated later, once trains are moving again?

    1. 1. I’m sure there is the matter of cleanup.

      2. Why would you wait to take a statement? The longer you wait, the more the mind has a chance to alter the story. Videos and computers can’t show everything.

      3. Have you ever killed anyone? I’m sure the engineer would be in some short of shock. So you either have to help him out or find a relief employee to continue operating.

      1. Take the engineer out of service, interview him/her. Get a relief crew there as quickly as possible. Keep the other track open, let the following train run, etc.

        Too often you hear of Amtrak trains held for 3 hours while investigating a fatality. I don’t mean to appear uncaring or non-empathetic, but (1) why delay all kinds of people who have no involvement; and (2) why make the whole rail system more unreliable?

        Are we inexorably biased to push everyone to drive cars? Recently, I was rear-ended at over 35 mph on the 520 bridge with substantial damage. I called 911. First question I was asked was is my car operable. Then I was instructed to drive to Foster Island and pull over and wait for help. Obviously a priority to keep the highway open, and analogy not complete since no fatality. But there was significant damage and it was not a priority to investigate or get the facts, and risk that driver at fault disappears. Even in most injury accidents, effort is made to keep some traffic moving (including removing the transit priority from the HOV lane, defeating the purpose.) Authorities should exercise the same kind of effort to keep rail traffic moving.

      2. Carl, your point is not lost, unfortunately this is probably more a result of our liability society than anything else.

        In defense of the policy to move cars involved in accidents to the side of the road (or in this case to the end of the bridge), as cars get backed up the risk of further accidents increases substantially. I don’t think the policy is the result of drivers complaining about backups because of a fender bender but rather to minimize further accidents caused by sudden stops further back (aka pile-ups) and rubber-necking on the nearby lanes (including the other side of the roadway).

        I spent some time in Turkey for work and their law doesn’t allow vehicles to be moved after an accident until the police have obtained the necessary evidence from the scene of the accident, fatality or not. This was a few years back and I don’t know if it is still the case.

      3. As Carl perfectly illustrated, I’d say its a result of a societial (not mine) obsession with the motorcar and that the greatest sin in the entire world is slowing any automobile down. Any other mode of transportation can wait and be shut down.

        With a train traveling on a private railroad track, I’m not sure what there is to investigate. A train has the right of way, is the only thing that should be on the tracks (and on the private right of way for that matter), so anything else is automatically at fault. Push it to the side and move on.

        I like what they do in Japan, and in Japan they don’t F- around…
        Trains are also used as a means to commit suicide. Its relative popularity is partly due to its practical ease, and to avoid causing a nuisance to one’s family, though families are often charged or sued by the railway companies to compensate for the trouble caused by the accident. A typical suicide may cause delays between one and a few hours[citation needed] on one or more lines. The costs to the surviving families by the railway companies’ “delay fee” is often in the 100 million yen range. (wikipedia)

    2. Why is an hour-long shutdown of a multi-track railway necessary? … What societal value is generated by taking the railway out of service and delaying thousands of people? What cannot be investigated later, once trains are moving again?

      This decision is out of the hands of the railroad. In the case of any death on a rail line, the police agency and coroner with local jurisdiction are required to immediately freeze the scene and investigate the incident to record as much data as possible. While the train’s recorder will provide data on the operating characteristics at the time of the incident, it likely cannot indicate relevant site conditions that will be needed during the investigation (rain/sun/overcast, temperature, visibility, sight line obstructions, et alia). Also, in the event a signal is involved (such as the 2008 Metrolink/UP collision), it is vitally important that the conditions at the time of the incident are recorded in detail so that tests to recreate the circumstances leading up to the incident can be replicated as accurately as possible.

      1. There is an article on the Seattle PI website:
        http://www.seattlepi.com/local/425202_sounder17.html
        Here is an excerpt:

        A man trespassing on train tracks was struck and killed by a Sounder train near Puyallup early Tuesday morning, Sound Transit officials said.

        The 6:50 a.m. Sounder train was heading to Tacoma from Seattle when it struck the man about 1/2 mile south of the Puyallup station, said Bruce Gray with Sound Transit.

        The body was spotted a few minutes later by someone on a northbound train, Gray said. Officials say it’s likely the operator of the southbound train never knew anyone was hit as trains are typically going around 80 mph through that area.

        The tracks were shut down for a few hours to conduct an investigation. Northbound Sounder service was canceled from Tacoma.

        What purpose is served to shut down the track for a few hours to conduct an investigation? Apparently the southbound train wasn’t aware it hit anyone and wasn’t damaged. Any camera footage from the engine or cab would be available. A pedestrian on the tracks is trespassing.

        There’s no safety investigation needed. If the police want evidence, they can require trains through the area to be manually dispatched and go at slow speeds, but whether it’s a trespasser or suicide, we don’t need to shut the railroad for a few hours.

        Weather, sightline, et alia aren’t going to be factors. A train at track speed can’t stop and the pedestrian shouldn’t have been on the tracks.

        The Metrolink/UP crash is a completely different beast as there was a clear systems breakdown to be investigated (and probably track damage too). But that wasn’t the case here. My point is that these multi-hour shutdowns make the rail system less reliable, and are unnecessary in a case like this. Any evidence needed could have been taken without shutting the railway.

      2. You know, after reading that description, I have to agree. Perhaps a 5-10 minute shutdown to remove the body and photograph the scene; maybe a 20-minute shutdown to clean up the rails afterwards. What excuse is there for a multi-hour shutdown?

  2. Once again, communication was poor. The announcement given at Sumner, where my train was held for 25 minutes before continuing to Puyallup to become the sole remaining NB train, simply said, “Trains will be delayed for I don’t know how long. We suggest alternate transportation.” Is it that hard to point people to the 578 that’s waiting only 10′ away?

    1. Trains are stopped. Buses keep moving.

      Buses can detour around accidents. Trains can’t.

      When a similar thing happened to me on a Link train, some posters here asked me why I didn’t direct passengers on my train to the appropriate buses. I was not given enough information to determine that taking a bus would be faster than waiting for the train to start moving again.

      By the way, has anyone here noted that the “next train arriving” messages at Link stations are now for “in one minute”, instead of “in two minutes”? What is the point of that? By the time a Link train is one minute from the station, you can hear the signals at the nearest intersection clanging, or actually see the train approaching. That is almost as useful as the “train is now arriving” message. Can’t people see that the train is now here?

      1. “The train is being held due to traffic ahead.”

        “The train is being held due to traffic ahead.”

        “The train is being held due to traffic ahead.”

        etc.

      2. I think the “in one minute” announcements are only on certain platforms, and have been that way for a while. AFAIK, most platforms still announce “in two minutes.”

    2. Amtrak 501 is running about 30 minutes late on it s way to Portland.

      The “Vancouver” Amtrak (510, 513, 516 and 517)trains ARE running to/from Bellingham, just not between Bellingham and Vancouver.

      Traffic will be a mess (and trains near BFI likely held away from the aerodrome) whilst Our Fearless Leader pays us a call today (approx 1100-1600).

    1. Why didn’t our president take light rail from Boeing Field to Seattle?

      Oh, yeah. Link doesn’t stop at Boeing Field.

      Besides, the president was probably in a hurry. You don’t take transit if you are in a hurry.

      I was on Link between 2 and 4 today, and traffic on I-5 was moving freely during the times I could see I-5 from the train. Traffic on I-90 was moving freely both times I crossed the bridge today, at 10:30 am and at 1:30 pm. Traffic on the viaduct was moving freely this morning around 10 and this afternoon around 4.

      1. You forgot 520.

        520 between 3-5 pm was jammed (more than usual). My bus arrived downtown 30 minutes late due to presidential motorcade and three stalled vehicles at three different locations. The GP lanes were a parking lot and the HOV lane was blocked. My bus crawled at 3 mph until it got around and zoomed past the traffic.

      2. Hmmm…

        Comment by Norman
        2010-08-17 17:55:14

        “I was on Link between 2 and 4 today”
        “Traffic on I-90 was moving freely both times I crossed the bridge today, at 10:30 am and at 1:30 pm”

        So, Norman, which is it? Were you Link at 1:30 or on I-90??

        Moderators – can we get rid of this fraudster once and for all?

      3. I hate hate hate to stick up for Norman, but in this case the facts are indisputable: 2pm falls after 1:30pm. It’s entirely plausible Norman was eastbound across I-90 at 10:30am, westbound at 1:30pm, transferred to a sounthbound train at IDS and had passed the O&M Facility (the first place where I-5 is really visible from the train) by 2pm, and had returned to the downtown area by 4pm to be in position to view conditions on the AWV.

      4. But Norman, you *always* say traffic was flowing freely. How about some evidences from an independent observer?

  3. Zach, you might want to make that last sentence more clear. The trains are still running but they are originating/terminating in Bellingham.

    1. Follow-up: Could you please also provide a link to whatever announcement/news article discusses what occurred at White Rock to require the emergency repairs you mentioned? This is the first I’ve heard of any issues on the New Westminster Sub. Thanks!

      1. It was sent out as an email alert from the WA DOT yesterday, and is on the AmtrakCascades.com website.

    2. So much for those going to Vancouver. Oh yeah they’re on a train… they can wait, their time isnt as important as god’s chosen ones, the glorious almighty motorist.

      1. “Canada” owns little or no track or ROW. They have “private” companies, operated and regulated in a similar way to those in the US.

  4. This is Sounder’s first fatality incident since the start of operations for the train service.

    1. If only that were true. It isn’t even the first fatality this month. A teenager standing in the yellow strip last week played a game of chicken with the train, and lost.

      1. Brent, it is the first fatality for Sounder. The kid that was hit at the Puyallup Sounder Station was by Amtrak.

        A few days ago in Titlow, two people were hit, one killed, one severely injured in Titlow, WA

        A few weeks prior was a woman hit by Amtrak.

        I can go on and on sadly..

        This latest makes it the 16th fatality in our area

      2. Sorry for the error. Have stats been made available about the causes of all these accidents? What can be done to reduce future incidents?

      3. What can be done to reduce future incidents?

        Nothing much. Platforms nationwide are getting tactile edges to discourage people from accidentally falling onto the tracks.

        It’s hard to prevent people from committing suicide. It’s even harder to prevent idiots from inadvertently committing suicide.

        Best you can do is fence the track off to make it harder for anyone to get on it. And close as many grade crossings as possible for the same reason.

        But seriously, more people get killed by cars & trucks every day than get killed by trains in a year. (And the same recommendations applied to streets — grade-separate them from pedestrians, fence them off — are never applied.)

        Trains are already managed so as to be much, much safer than road vehicles. Most of the people killed by trains are suicides, and there are few enough of them that they all make the papers. If every person hit by a car made the papers, well, it would fill up a lot of newsprint.

      4. But seriously, more people get killed by cars & trucks every day than get killed by trains in a year. [snip] If every person hit by a car made the papers, well, it would fill up a lot of newsprint.

        That’s the thing: Instances of people getting struck/killed by trains are so relatively uncommon compared to similar events involving cars that a bigger deal gets made out of those occurances because we’re not inured to them happening. If Jim-Bob gets liquored up, drives his pickup into a tree and kills himself, he gets a two-paragraph blurb buried in the local section of the paper*. On the other hand, if his addled mind makes him think he can drive around lowered gates before a train arrives at the crossing and he gets broadsided, it’s front-page* news.

        * – Assuming that newspapers still exist.

      5. Legalizing and easing requirments for assisted suicide and not building anti-jumping rails on bridge over water would help.

        Why can’t these selfish bastards take a warm bath and slit their wrists like everyone else?

Comments are closed.