Link Light Rail vs. Monorail
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Sound Transit has completed a 16-mile light rail line, called “Central Link light rail” that extends from Downtown Seattle through the Rainier Valley neighborhood into Tukwila and on to Sea-Tac Airport.
Since I have campaigned in the past in favor of monorail instead of light rail, I am now going to keep track (no pun intended) of incidents that support my arguments in favor of monorail. I will focus especially on the part of the light rail line along Martin Luther King Way Jr. South, where the tracks are in the middle of the street. The tracks are separated from the street except at crossings, but still there are going to be conflicts between trains, cars, and people.
I am no longer campaigning for a monorail in Rainier Valley. It is obviously much too late for that because the light rail line is completed. However a few years ago I campaigned for monorail instead of light rail on this route, and now that light rail is completed I can point out some of the ways it would have been better to build a monorail instead. We could learn valuable lessons for future routes.
INPORTANT NOTE: In reporting accidents involving light rail trains, I am not finding fault with the operators of the trains nor with Sound Transit. To the best of my knowledge every accident resulted from the carelessness of the pedestrian or driver and the train operator did his or her best to avoid the accident. The point I am trying to make is that monorail is inherently safer than surface light rail by being elevated above the heads of pedestrians and cars. Furthermore, my comparison is with surface light rail, not with elevated light rail or underground light rail, both of which would be similar in safety to monorail regarding collision with pedestrians and vehicles. However elevated or underground light rail costs more than monorail, and elevated light rail is bulkier than monorail.
MAN CROSSING TRACK SERIOUSLY INJURED BY TRAIN (Monday, April 8, 2013) — Late this afternoon a man attempting to cross the light rail tracks on Martin Luther King Way South was struck by a souhtbound train and was seriously insjured. My opinion: It couldn't have happened with a monorail.
PEDESTRIAN HIT BY TRAIN (Saturday, December 15, 2012) — This evening a man was struck by a light rail train near the Columbia City station in South Seattle. It is reported that the man suffered life-threatening head injuries. My opinion: It couldn't have happened with a monorail.
WOMAN ON TRACKS KILLED BY TRAIN (Sunday, May 22, 2011) — Less than an hour after Midnight this morning a woman walking along the light rail tracks on Martin Luther King Way S. was struck and killed by a train. The train operator repeatedly blew the horn and tried to stop in time, but the victim made no effort to get off the tracks and was struck, dying soon afterward. My opinion: It couldn't have happened with a monorail.
MINOR CAR-TRAIN COLLISION (Tuesday, February 22, 2011) — Early this afternoon there was a minor collision between a train and a car at South Brandon St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and nobody was hurt. My opinion: It couldn't have happened with a monorail.
MAN STRUCK AND KILLED BY TRAIN RULED SUICIDE (Friday, January 7, 2011) — Early yesterday afternoon a man was struck by a Link light rail train and died later in the hospital. Today the King County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that the death was a suicide. The incident happened near the intersection of Fifth Avenue South and South Holgate Street. It was reported that the warning gates were lowered and lights flashing when the 49-year old man walked into the path of the oncoming train. The operator of the train was unable to stop in time. My opinion: it couldn't have happened with a monorail.
TEEN STRUCK BY LIGHT RAIL TRAIN (Saturday, September 25, 2010) — This afternoon three girls ran against a red light across Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. at S. Graham St., across the path of a southbound Link train. The train operator applied the emergency brakes and two of girls made it across but the third girl was struck by the train. The 17-year-old was taken to Harborview Medical Center, but her condition was not known. My opinion: it couldn't have happened with a monorail.
TRAIN HITS CAR TURNING ON RED LIGHT (Thursday, September 9, 2010) — This morning the driver of a car northbound on Martin Luther King Way South began a left turn against a red light onto South Othello Street and the car was knocked out of the way by an oncoming train. The two people in the car were treated at the scene for minor injuries, and nobody on the train was hurt. My opinion: it couldn't have happened with a monorail.
TRAIN MANGLES PICKUP MAKING ILLEGAL TURN (Tuesday, August 3, 2010) — Late this morning the driver of a pickup truck made an illegal turn into the path of an oncoming train. There were only minor injuries, but the truck was mangled as it was carried along the side of the train and several windows on the train were broken. There were signs at the intersection prohibiting left turns. My opinion: it couldn't have happened with a monorail.
TRAIN CLIPS GIRL ON CELL PHONE (Friday, April 23, 2010) — This afternoon a 13-year-old girl apparently talking on a cell phone at Othello Station stepped onto the tracks into the path of an oncoming train. She was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, reported to be facial cuts. My opinion: it couldn't have happened with a monorail.
CAR, TRAIN COLLIDE (Friday, April 2, 2010) — This afternoon a car and a light rail train collided near Othello Station on Martin Luther King Way South. Reportedly the car made a left trun into the path of the northbound train. My opinion: it couldn't have happened with a monorail.
CAR, TRAIN COLLIDE (Wednesday, March 10, 2010) — Today a car and a light rail train collided on Martin Luther King Way South. A report says that the driver of the car made an illegal turn against a red light and collided with the train. There was apparaently minor injuries to a passenger in the car and the driver was not hurt. No one on the train was hurt. My opinion: it couldn't have happened with a monorail.
TRAIN HITS CAR IN RAINIER BEACH (Sunday, January 24, 2010) — Today the driver of a car driving north on Martin Luther King Way South made a left turn at South Merton Street, apparently unaware of a northbound light rail train approaching from behind. The operator of the train foresaw the impending collision and was stopping the train, but the train hit the car at a fairly low speed. There were no injuries, except to the car. My opinion: it couldn't have happened with a monorail. Read the train operator’s response to this news item!
LINK TRAIN DERAILS, NOBODY INJURED (Monday, 15 November 2009) — This afternoon a light rail train derailed and disrupted rail traffic for a few hours, but the train had no passengers and nobody was injured. The Link train was just leaving the maintenance base in Seattle to begin service, and derailed just as it was about to enter the main line. The train was on the track leading from the base and when the front of the train was in or near the switch to enter the main line, the front wheels left the rails and moved sideways onto one of the mainline tracks, sitting at an angle and blocking the track. Only one track was still clear and trains in service had to alternate between northbound and southbound trains using the same track. MY OPINION: It would take an extremely violent incident to derail a monorail train, because the monorail train essentially wraps around the single large rail.
ANOTHER LEFT-TURNING CAR GETS HIT (Sunday, 28 September 2009) — About 1:10 a.m. this morning a car made a left turn in front of an oncoming train and was struck on Martin Luther King Way S. and S. Walden St. Unlike a similar accident several hours earlier, there were no injuries. MY OPINION: Even though the driver was at fault, this could not have happened with a monorail.
2 INJURED WHEN TRAIN HITS CAR (Saturday, 26 September 2009) — A light rail train hit a car mid-afternoon today when the driver of the ignored a “No Left Turn” sign and made a left turn into the path of the oncoming train on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. and S. Kenyon St. Two occupants of the car were taken to Harborview Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. MY OPINION: Even though the driver was at fault, this could not have happened with a monorail.
TRAIN NOISE DECLARED PUBLIC-HEALTH PROBLEM (Thursday, 24 September 2009) — Sound Transit declared that the screeching of light rail trains while rounding curves is a public health issue and issued an emergency order to reduce the noise. The emergency delaration permits the agency to bypass the normal bidding process and get the work done sooner. MY OPENION: Monorail avoids the screeching problem of steel wheels on steel rails.
LIGHT RAIL CLOSED BY WRECKAGE OF FATAL MOTORCYCLE CRASH (Thursday, 6 August 2009) — Service over part of the Link light rail line was suspended for about two hours this morning because of wreckage on the tracks. Two motorcycles were traveling together at high speed on Martin Luther King Way South in the early morning when they apparently tangled and crashed, leaving a trail of debris for about two blocks, with one of the bikes ending up on the light rail tracks. The driver of the one on the tracks was killed and the other rider was severly injured, at risk of losing one arm and one leg. This wreck was not the fault of Sound Transit and is not included in my Box Score on the left. MY OPINION: The only reason I am listing this news here is because a wreck of this type would be under a monorail and would not affect service.
MAN DIES AFTER JUMPING IN FRONT OF LIGHT RAIL TRAIN (Wednesday, 29 July 2009) — The King County medical examiner’s office reports that a man that jumped in front of a light rail train Monday night committed suicide. Shortly before midnight Monday a man climbed over a Jersey barrier onto light rail tracks and was struck and killed by an oncoming train. MY OPINION: The fact it is a suicide does not make it less tragic. Someone that was determined enough could commit suicide on a monorail by climbing onto the beam, but it would be so difficult it probably wouldn’t be worth the effort. The victim would probably either find an easier way to kill themselves, or better still, have time to decide to live or seek help.
LINK LIGHT RAIL OPENS (Saturday, 18 Jul 2009) — Today the 14-mile Central Link light rail line opened from Downtown Seattle to Tukwila about two miles short of reaching Sea-Tac Airport. About 45,000 people rode the trains during the opening day. Rides are free today and tomorrow. The final segment to the airport opens in December.
Most people were happy, even ecstatic, about the beginning of service. Most of the riders commented on the quiet and smooth ride. A few residents complained about noise, concern about crossing the tracks, lack of parking, and other things.
MY OPINION: I am also glad we now have light rail service because we need better mass transit. I also believe that a monorail line would have cost less, been less disruptive to the neighborhoods through which it passes, and would have avoided many of the concerns about safety and noise. Monorail would probably also have attracted more riders. I also believe there should be parking available for riders.
TRAIN BELLS ARE LOUD (5 July 2009) — Observers report that an automated bell-like sound on Link light rail trains are really loud and can be heard two to four blocks away, but few people think it is bad enough to complain about. The sound is similar to the clang of a streetcar bell, but much louder, and is meant to warn vehicles and pedestrians that a train is approaching. MY OPINION: Monorails can’t hit cars and pedestrians, so don't need a warning sound.
RESIDENTS COMPLAIN ABOUT LIGHT RAIL NOISE (5 July 2009) — The Seattle Times reports that people living near an elevated portion of the Link light rail track in Tukwila complain that the noise of passing trains is too loud. One woman said the noise keeps her from sleeping and makes life more stressful. Another resident described the noise as a screeching like fingernails on a chalkboard, but much louder. MY OPINION: The light rail uses steel wheels on steel rails, but a monorail runs on rubber tires so should be much quieter.
TRAIN CRUNCHES PT CRUISER (30 June 2009) — A driver in a PT Cruiser allegedly turned left against a red light in front of an oncoming Link train at South Myrtle Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, resulting in serious damage to the car and non-life-threatening injuries to the driver. The top of the car had to be pried open in order to extricate the driver. There were no passengers in the car. The train suffered damage to a front panel. MY OPINION, of course, is it couldn’t have happened with a monorail.
DRIVERS COMPLAIN ABOUT BAD TRAFFIC SIGNAL TIMING (27 April 2009) — Charles E. Brown, staff reporter for the Seattle Times, reports in his column, “Bumper to Bumper,” that a number of people have complained about long delays waiting for traffic lights to change to green along Martin Luther King Jr. Way South. Approaching trains cause lights to interrupt their normal cycle and go green for the train so the trains don’t have to stop. Drivers compolain that just as the light is about to turn green for them, a train comes and the light stays red, then they have to wait through the cycle and then another train comes. Click here to read the article in the Seattle Times. MY OPINION: Monorail trains don’t affect the traffic lights.
PEDESTRIAN RUNS INTO TRAIN, SUFFERS INJURIES (24 April 2009) — This afternoon a woman suffered facial injuries when she ran into a moving Link light rail train on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South. It was reported that the train had a green light at the time. How can someone run into a train? It appears she was looking to the side, away from the direction of the oncoing train, and she didn't see it in time. MY OPINION: If they had built monorail instead of light rail, trains and pedestrians could not collide.
18 JULY SET FOR LIGHT RAIL OPENING (22 April 2009) — Sound Transit announced yesterday that the opening date for Central Link light rail in Seattle and Tukwila will be Saturday, 18 July. There will be some ceremonies and celebrations with music and other activities. The first two days of service (Saturday and Sunday) will be free.
LINK LIGHT RAIL HAS ITS FIRST AUTO COLLISION (15 April 2009) — Today a car allegedly making an illegal left turn collided with a Link light rail train on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. The damage appears to be relatively minor. The driver of the car was injured but it is believed not to be serious. Service on the line doesn't begin service for almost three more months and already it has a collision! Sound Transit is currently conducting test runs with the trains. MY OPINION: If they had built monorail instead of light rail, trains and cars could not collide.
TESTING BEGINS WITH TRAINS ALONG ROUTE (Friday, August 15, 2008) — Sound Transit is beginning testing with light rail trains along the Link light rail route from downtown Seattle to Tukwila. The trains initially are being run at a very low speed to check the various systems. The speed of the trains will gradually be increased over the next few months. The line is expected to open to Tukwila in July 2009, with the segment to SeaTac Airport to open a few months later.
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©2009 Robert M. Fleming Jr.
This page was last updated on 11 April 2013