Since Houston's light-rail line, called MetroRail, debuted Jan. 1, there have been at least 56 accidents, almost all of them minor and attributable to motorist error. Drivers have been making illegal left turns across the train tracks, crashing into the soft rubber noses of the 200-passenger trains that run a 7.5-mile route through downtown.
Local activists chronicle each accident on the Wham-Bam-Tram Ram Counter (www.actionamerica.org/houston) and the Danger Train Blog (www.publiustx.net/index.php?catid). "A Streetcar Named Disaster, crashing soon at an intersection near you," proclaims the Action America site.
This spring, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County commissioned the Texas Transportation Institute to conduct a safety study and make suggestions to help reduce crashes. Recommendations -- including changing train-approaching signals so they flash instead of just light up -- have now been implemented.
Metro spokeswoman Maggi Stewart said that despite the accidents, the agency believes MetroRail has been a success. Average daily ridership is at 30,000, well on track to meet the 35,000 projected ridership for the end of the year, she said.
"We're looking at the ridership and we know people are riding it, and that's the important thing," she said. As for the activists' Web sites, Stewart said: "Some anti-rail groups are in charge of these sites . . . They want to build more highways and more concrete."
-- Sylvia Moreno