November 24, 2003

Join the Metro Light Rail Deathwatch contest

Patrick Crozier | Trams

From Amish Tech Support via Where Worlds Collide:

It's time for the Metro Light Rail Deathwatch, where the person who guesses the date and time of the first Metro Light Rail fatality in Houston wins an Amish Tech Support coffee mug, Amish Tech Support mousepad, and a genuine $25 Metro Stored Value card!

As I understand it trams (as we Brits call them) are the most dangerous road vehicles known to man. Celebrity victims have included architect Antoni Gaudí and John Major's grandfather.

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Comments

Irony or genuine belief?

I can't find any relevant stats (the ones I've spotted seem to combine trains and trams), but I'd've thought that James Dean and Princess Diana were higher profile casualties than Mr Gaudi and the elder Mr Major.

Thinking about it, any UK figures that did exist would be hopelessly distorted towards showing trams were safe, since the light rail systems that we have use dedicated tracks rather than street running for most of their distance (or all their distance, in the DLR's case).

Posted by john b on November 24, 2003

Well, does suicide count?

Posted by Randolph on November 24, 2003

That's a rail(way/road) train, not light rail/tram.

Train suicides are indeed quite popular, which sucks for train drivers. This doesn't seem like much of an argument against trains (although I do approve of the Japanese system of billing train suicides' families for the disruption and cleaning costs).

Posted by john b on November 25, 2003

I know it was heavy rail, but the question still stands - does the deathwatch end if somebody does themselves in? I mean, if this whole deathwatch thing is supposed to prove the light rail is dangerous, should suicide count? I mean, lots of people have died on the NYC subway, but so many of them died subway surfing that it has no bearing on safety for people who actually want to arrive alive.

Besides, who wants to do a "Houston Highway Death Watch?"

Posted by Randolph on November 25, 2003

Well, this is anecdotal, but my local Croydon tram was causing fatalities before it even opened.

Posted by James on November 26, 2003

I thought I had some stats on this but when I went to look I couldn't find them - and neither could the guy who sent them to me in the first place.

So, I'll withdraw the claim.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on November 27, 2003

The trams that whizz all around Amsterdam seemed truly terrifying to me whenever I wasn't on one. They dont seem to be constrained by trafic lights and give way to no one but, in a similar way to the bicyles, ring their bell to warn the stoned tourists of impedinding impacts. All this might not be so bad but the tram rails go all over the place including across pavements!

Posted by Gordon on November 27, 2003

I thought I had some stats on this but when I went to look I couldn't find them - and neither could the guy who sent them to me in the first place.

Google truly is a miraculous invention.

A search for "trams safety statistics" returned this as hit number three. This very blog posting came near the top too.

Here's the relevant extract:

Tram Safety

Ian Oliver has looked into Dutch safety statistics to see what we can learn from the Dutch experience with trams.

• Four Dutch cities have trams: Amsterdam, Den Haag, Rotterdam, Utrecht. The Amsterdam network is significantly bigger than the others.

• Trams have priority over all other vehicles, there are no legal limits on tram speeds.

• The accident rate for pedestrians is 155 fatalities per billion tram kilometers The accident rate for cyclists and moped riders is 112 fatalities per billion tram kilometers. i.e. 267 fatalities to 3rd parties (excluding those in motor vehicles) per bn tram kms.

• The respective rates for accidents with cars are 4.9 and 3.7 per billion vehicle urban kilometers.

• A crude comparison with UK buses and coaches is that here there are 12 pedestrian/cyclist fatalities per billion bus kilometers. This is not a fully fair comparison as trams operate exclusively in high-density urban areas, buses and coaches don't.

• Even with figures based on occupant kilometers trams come out badly: 3.6 cyclist fatalities per billion tram occupant kms, versus 2.7 fatalities per bn car occupant kms.

• Trams are however very safe for their occupants: accident rates per passenger km are at the same level as trains and planes.

• 70% of accidents are for "failing to give trams priority" (sic).

• Most accidents (no figures) are at cross roads and there is a definite pattern of black spots (eg more than two parallel tram tracks is very dangerous).

• There appears to be a wide variation in incidents per tram driver.

• I could find no statistics for bike accidents caused by getting stuck in tram tracks and speaking to a number of people who cycle in Amsterdam on a recent visit there it was not perceived as a problem.

It's not a primary source, but a bit more time on Google may produce one.

Posted by Andy Wood on November 27, 2003

Guess I'm biased. I like Amsterdam (and I've been there rather often), and I like trams. But some streets in the City are rather narrow, and stuffed with tourists (mostly) and frequently used by trams (i.e., one per minute).

But my question is not whether trams in Amsterdam are dangerous (they are) but whether the comparison in this statistic is correct: did they compare billions of car kilometers on the whole (including motorways) with billions of tram kilometers?

Sorry, my Netherlands isn't up to looking for the original statistics at the moment ...

Posted by Rike on November 27, 2003

...did they compare billions of car kilometers on the whole (including motorways) with billions of tram kilometers?

No. According to what I quoted above, they compared accidents per urban kilometre for both cars and trams:

The respective rates for accidents with cars are 4.9 and 3.7 per billion vehicle urban kilometers.

I think it's the number of accidents per occupant km that is the relevant statistic.

Posted by Andy Wood on November 28, 2003

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