The light-rail line in Phoenix has been running for a year now. But automobile drivers are still having trouble getting used to dealing with the trains. In the past 12 months, there have been 51 accidents involving the trains.
I was in Phoenix in May 2008 to report a Governing story about the city's inaugural attempt at rail transit. One of the biggest concerns the city had was how to get residents -- almost none of whom have ever had to deal with mass transit -- to pay attention.
Here's what I wrote then:
There's also the challenge of building and operating a rail system
in an area where drivers and pedestrians simply aren't accustomed to
sharing the road with a train. That was a huge problem in Houston when
that city opened its first light-rail line several years ago. The first
train-car collision occurred during the testing phase, before the
system was officially open. By mid-2004 -- six months into operations --
Houston's METRORail set a new record for most accidents in a year.
Critics dubbed the Houston lines the "Streetcar Named Disaster" or the
Since then, Houston and other cities have put more of an emphasis on
educating drivers and pedestrians. Phoenix actually overhauled its
blueprints in response to the accidents in Houston. "We were 65 percent
into our design process and we went back to the drawing board," says
Maria Hyatt, assistant to the Phoenix city manager. The city redesigned
many of the intersections where trains and automobile traffic would
meet. New features were added, such as large sidewalk planters to
discourage pedestrians from walking into the path of a train. "All of
the changes were a result of going to Houston and seeing where their
accidents were occurring and why they were occurring."
Looks like, despite the best efforts in Phoenix, this is still an issue.