A Water Taxi a Few Hours After the Collision (by the author)

Saturday night a light rail train struck and seriously injured a 17 year old girl trying to beat it across the tracks. She was unluckiest of 3 that attempted the feat.

Sunday the West Seattle Water Taxi Rachel Marie struck Pier 50, throwing one passenger overboard (immediately recovered), and injuring 7. KCDOT says early signs point to a mechanical malfunction, though the Coast Guard is still investigating.

Water taxi service between West Seattle and downtown Seattle will operate on a normal schedule Monday, Sept. 27 between Seacrest Dock and Pier 55

While regular service will resume Monday morning with the 6:50 a.m. sailing using an Argosy Cruises vessel, passengers should visit the King County Marine Division’s website at http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/WaterTaxi/WestSeattleRoute.aspx for updates and potential schedule adjustments.

In by far the worst story, a 2-year old is killed in traffic, her aunt critically injured.

39 Replies to “A Weekend of Accidents”

  1. There were no passengers from the Water Taxi in the water after the accident unless you have a source that says otherwise.

    1. The Seattle Times, PI, News Tribune all had stated there was one man that was thrown overboard and some one from the Coast Guard jumped in and saved that person.

      1. Funny, because the Coast Guard spokesman on the scene says that they determined that no passengers were in the water.

      2. The initial news reports were all in error. No passengers were in the water. The person seen in the water was a Coast Guard employee who jumped in the water to make sure no one was overboard. Most of those reports have been corrected. STB should do the same.

        In reality this is not much different from a bus losing its brakes. Stuff happens, what is important is the training and response.

  2. You know what’s missing from that Seattle Times article on the girl who was struck trying to dodge the train?

    A comparative count of how many jaywalkers have been killed in the past year by cars unable to stop.

      1. How not? The comments section is alive with complaints that Sound Transit is at fault for choosing center-running, rather than the girl in question. Why should ST be blamed for people attempting a mad dash across the tracks, when we all pretty much agree that jaywalking pedestrians who run across traffic are at fault for the collisions they cause?

      2. Kyle S.

        “Why should ST be blamed for people attempting a mad dash across the tracks?”
        -Kyle S.

        Kyle, we’re not talking about whether or not it was the train’s fault for hitting the girl, it’s obvious the girl should’ve used common sense. That’s not what we’re saying… Sound Transit made the worst mistake I’ve ever witnessed in the history of their existence: CENTER-RUNNING TRACK IN A HIGH-DENSITY NEIGHBORHOOD! How st*pid can they get? So it’s pretty obvious the neighborhood would’ve been better off without trains disrupting pedestrian and car traffic… right? Well, get this, it actually would’ve been cheaper for ST to tear up the road, lay the track, and cover it back up with a lid (lid = road). This method is called: cut’n’cover technique. It would’ve been cheaper, faster, and much more appealling than a mega-wide road dividing the neighborhood.
        Well Sound Transit learned their lesson, but McGinn hasn’t yet caught on (he still was a center-running line from West Seattle to Ballard). Sound Transit isn’t using ANY center-running light rail segments except for a possible 1/2mile long segment out near Redmong/Overlake.

        NO CENTER RUNNING!

      3. THE WORST MISTAKE EVER: Cars on grade-level streets in a high-density neighborhood! How St*pid can highway departments get?

        Nope, it’s utterly comparable. A count of jaywalkers hit by cars is sadly totally appropriate for comparison.

        Oh, and cut-and-cover costs twice what you think it does, Andrew.

      4. Andrew, I dislike center running because it introduces delays into everyone’s trip: cars, trains, and pedestrians alike. But your assertion that it would have been cheaper to build cut-and-cover than to build center-running just doesn’t hold water.

    1. Isn’t this the site where there have been regular posters who occasionally write posts here in which they encourage jaywalking as a good thing? I’m sure I have read posts by people here who say they regularly jaywalk across MLK Jr Way in order to catch Link trains, and seem to be proud of it.

      Any comparison between the number of jaywalkers struck by Link trains vs cars should include a comparison of the number of Link trains in KIng County (about 17) vs the number of cars (millions).

      1. Isn’t this the site where there have been regular posters who occasionally write posts here in which they encourage jaywalking as a good thing? I’m sure I have read posts by people here who say they regularly jaywalk across MLK Jr Way in order to catch Link trains, and seem to be proud of it.

        I didn’t write any of those articles, and I would certainly not jaywalk across MLK. Especially in front of a train.

        Any comparison between the number of jaywalkers struck by Link trains vs cars should include a comparison of the number of Link trains in KIng County (about 17) vs the number of cars (millions).

        That wouldn’t be a fair comparison at all. Link doesn’t travel on cul-de-sacs. Vehicle miles traveled on roads where there isn’t heavy pedestrian traffic would render such analysis meaningless.

        I don’t have statistics for VMT on highly-trafficked pedestrian routes. The best data I found in a quick search was 2007 Pedestrian and Bike Collision Report.

      2. You mean there is “heavy pedestrian traffic” inside the Link Beacon Hill tunnel, for example, and on the elevated sections in Sodo and at both ends of the Mt Baker station?

      3. Proud of jaywalking? No. Before light rail was put in, I almost never jaywalked. The timing on the lights, however, has brought out my inner jaywalker. The waits seem to have decreased over the last year, but it’s still a pain. It rarely has to do with trying to run to get the train. It’s more about being annoyed with the long wait at the light.

      4. Norman, there’s clearly a difference from the grade separated sections of the Link compared to the at grade areas – One being that it makes no sense for people to cross the tracks at elevated sections to continue on a straight line. They would find a wall or drop-off. But of course, you knew that and are trying to make a point that grade-separated lines are better. Unfortunately, people much like yourself complain that the Link was notoriously expensive as it is now – it would have cost millions more to make the entire line grade-separated.

        Lastly, the Link didn’t instantaneously spur jay-walkers. They existed on MLK before, and they will continue to exist today. This is by no fault of the Link.

      5. Ok, so according to Limes, putting Link down MLK Jr Way has encouraged jaywalking along that road because the Link trains have made the wait to cross MLK longer. The same reasoning applies to cars running red lights to cross MLK — this happens more often now because of Link, because the Link trains make the wait to cross MLK a lot longer at times at intersections, so drivers and pedestrians get angry and impatient and decide to cross against the light, instead of sitting and waiting forever for a green light.

        Mike, I mentioned the grade-separated parts of Link to respond to Kyle’s mention of streets with cul-de-sacs, or other streets without heavy pedestrian traffic, to point out that much of Link has NO pedestrian traffic whatsoever.

        Here is a link to a website which shows that U.S. fatalities per passenger mile are much greater for light rail than for “urban driving.” This does not include light rail fatalities blamed on suicide.

        http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/linksafetycertification.htm

        At the bottom of that webpage you can also see that U.S. fatality rates per vehicle mile are much higher for light rail than for buses.

      6. Norman, your website is using phony data.

        There are comparable numbers at the FTA on motor *buses* versus light rail. Which aren’t incredibly useful due to the wide variation in conditions buses run in, versus the small sample size of light rail systems, but you can at least get some information out of it.

        There is no comparable data for individual cars — the standard version of the car fatality dataset does not use remotely similar sources of data, and suspiciously the website you point to doesn’t credit where it gets its supposed car fatality rates.

        Different standards for collecting data == apples and oranges result.

      1. Good call by Nathanael that I should have posted the data and calculations for the chart on PITF noted above showing passenger mile fatality rates for U.S. light rail being higher than passenger mile fatality rates for urban driving fatalities. I should have but I didn’t, and that’s easy to fix.

        In response to his criticism, I have now amended the page found by Norman with a link to my spreadsheet calculations and data sources, in Excel format at http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/LRT-fatalitycalculations-Niles.xls .

        Note on my chart that light rail deaths per passenger mile is worse than for urban driving by multiples exceeding 3 in some years, including 2007, the most recent year available.

        How I calculated the urban driving fatality rates from available Federal sources is revealed in the spreadsheet. My main necessary assumption is that urban automobile passenger miles (A) are the same proportion of total auto passenger miles (B) as urban vehicle miles (C) are to total vehicle miles (D). The government publishes B, C, and D. I used arithmetic to calculate A.

        The light rail fatality counts (without suicides) and light rail passenger miles are in two separate data series that have to be put in a ratio to get my chart.

        This fact that light rail historically kills more people per passenger miles than urban driving is not a popular point to make with light rail fans. The first I ever thought that this contrast might be true came after reading a paper by John Semmens presented at Transportation Resource Board in January 2003. That paper is posted at http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/semmens-lrtsafety.pdf . Like me, John Semmens is no fan of light rail.

        Anyway, thanks to Nathanael and Norman for stirring up this issue of fatality rates per passenger mile by mode.

        So far with Seattle’s light rail, in over a year of operation, no non-suicide fatalities have occurred, for which Sound Transit deserves credit. Close calls, however, show that ongoing education and vigilance is required.

        In association with this addendum of my data sources and calculations, I went looking on the FTA web site for light rail fatalities nationwide in 2008 and 2009 and couldn’t find them posted. In March 2010 a rail safety report came out from FTA that doesn’t have annual light rail data broken out, but does show that transit rail safety nationwide is a troubling issue. This report is at http://transit-safety.volpe.dot.gov/publications/order/singledoc.asp?docid=1102 .

      2. So, the extrapolation goes something like this: Sometime during the functional life of Link, it will kill someone. Ergo, it shouldn’t have been built.

      3. Next time read the footnotes on government statistics you are quoting: “Transit rail modes are measured in car-miles.” You’d need to multiply those numbers by the number of passengers each car carries to get passenger miles.

        Nice try, John.

  3. And when I say “rarely”, that’s my observation of those I see around me. I’ve never crossed against the light to catch the train. I have done it because I’d been sitting at the light for what seems to be an eternity.

    1. And the fact that it takes an “eternity” to cross MLK Jr Way now, is because of Link trains, right? So, therefore, your propensity to jaywalk has greatly increased since the Link trains went in. Is that what you are saying?

      1. The issue is there because of how SDOT choses to time the signals and how they choose to handle pedestrians hitting the “walk” button. Just because there are Link trains at-grade doesn’t mean pedestrians should have to wait 5 minutes to cross MLK when the road is empty and no trains are in sight.

        I have seen teenagers play “chicken” with the trains pulling into Othello station on a number of occasions. The object seems to be to cross as close as you can to the front of the train without gettting hit.

        Of course this isn’t really the fault of light rail as I’ve seen teenagers do similar things with cars, buses, trucks, and mainline rail.

      2. I didn’t put words in Limes’ mouth. I was referring to his earlier post:

        limes says:
        September 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm
        Proud of jaywalking? No. Before light rail was put in, I almost never jaywalked. The timing on the lights, however, has brought out my inner jaywalker. The waits seem to have decreased over the last year, but it’s still a pain. It rarely has to do with trying to run to get the train. It’s more about being annoyed with the long wait at the light.

        That is Limes exact quote: he almost never jaywalked before light rail was put in. The light rail has made the wait to cross MLK longer, which has “annoyed” Limes because of the “long wait at the light.”

      3. Yes, the train that comes every 5 to 10 minutes and takes about 10 seconds to clear the intersection is the problem, not the constant car traffic. What a load of BS.

      4. Zed, just because you don’t understand what has happened to intersections along MLK Way because of Link is no excuse to get your facts wrong. During peak hours, there is a Link train in each direction every 7.5 minutes, or one train crossing the intersection every 3 minutes, 45 seconds. These trains can get signal priority, which can mess up the signals for people turning left across MLK or just crossing MLK in cars or on foot.

        In addition, MLK Jr Way is now much wider because of Link, which means it takes longer to cross MLK Jr Way.

        I suggest you go to an intersection on MLK Way where the Link tracks run down the middle of the street and watch traffic for an hour or so during the afternoon peak sometime, before you make more uninformed comments on the situation.

  4. In light of previous discussions on here… shouldn’t we say something like “17-year-old attempts to dash in front of light rail train”? How about “3 girls ignore warnings of oncoming light-rail train; 1 struck and seriously injured”?

    1. Such a radical rephrasing isn’t necessary. All that’s needed is to include the attempt at evasion in the headline: “Teenager Illegally Crossing Light Rail Tracks Struck, Seriously Injured.”

  5. We are all quick to accuse the young lady, without independent investigation and analysis of all causes that brought upon the serious injury accident. Even the Times failed to investigate before providing an interested party’s take as “fact” in their initial reports.

    The proper action is for a third party (not ST) to analyze the accident, consider ALL contributing factors, and make REASONABLE recommendations on how the entire system and car / train / pedestrian interface can be improved.

    To say “things will get better” and “it wasn’t Sound Transit’s Fault” are or may be true, but why miss an opportunity to see if there are other problems here, and to fix them; through training and/or improved designs. We need to PREVENT future accidents, not just marginalize them or deal with them after the fact.

    Will Sound Transit be investigating the Water Taxi accident? WSDOT? More likely the Coast Guard.

    1. Unless signals and warning bells weren’t working — a very unlikely scenario, or unless there is some serious impediment such as deafness or blindness on the part of this teenager, it is very unlikely that blame for this accident should fall on Sound Transit.

      Unfortunately, it is going to take examples of this stupidity before people obey the signals. I think gruesome pictures of this accident should be all over the schools and social networks with the message, DON’T RUN THE TRAIN. YOU’LL LOSE.

      Oh, and MLK is in no way a dense neighborhood. Not even close. It is a heavily traveled boulevard with some pedestrians but it is not dense. Even when the new developments open around Othello, Not super density.

      1. Charles,

        You’d like to think that people would learn over time not to race the trains. But, just look at Portland and their MAX system which has been around for what, 25 years? Pedestrians and cars are still getting in the way and getting smacked. My favorite was when the movie “George of the Jungle” came out back in 1998(?) and a bicycle hit a train. His baseball cap got jammed into the crevice holding a poster for the movie!

  6. Would crossing gates have helped in this case? I think they could have prevented most of the illegal left turns, but I’d like to hear from ST whether they would have made a difference here.

    I really do hope that some day Link can run faster along MLK. To get to that point, we need to get down to essentially zero collisions involving Link.

    1. I’m surprised they didn’t put in crossing gates. That would probably bring vehicular accidents way down.

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