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Public transit safer than car; CTA communications problems linger

That was some scary stuff that happened Tuesday night on the Blue Line. I'm glad it wasn't me trying to crawl out of that dark tunnel up a six-story ladder.

Since I wasn't there, I don't know what a survivor knows, and might feel, about riding on the El again.

But here's what I do know: Public transit is STILL much safer than driving in a car.

Lightrailnow.org reports that there's almost one death in a car per 100 million passenger miles, compared to 0.55 deaths on rail rapid transit 0.05 on commuter rail and 0.10 deaths on buses.

Again, that doesn't mean it wasn't frightening for those who went through the Tuesday nightmare. It just means that chances are at least twice as high for us to be killed in a car accident than a public transit accident.

CTA communications still a big problem

About 1,000 people on that train were directly affected by the derailment, but  thousands and thousands of other riders also were affected, and as usual, the CTA gave little to no information about what exactly was happening.

This is a long-running problem that MUST be fixed.

CTA Alerts subscribers got some information from the CTA, but they were very careful to never mention a fire or derailment.

Let's hope that finding a way to get better information out to all is yet another lesson that the CTA learns from this mess.

Comments

Six story ladder! Are there any stories from people who were on the ill-fated train with young children? Did anyone see any young kids on the train? There are always at least a few, even during rush hour. I often ride with one of my young kids on the El and am trying to envision how we would have made it out of such a situation and how I would have managed to get them out of there.

I don't know if the commuter rail statistic has much solace for those who ride the Metra Rock Island.

Honestly...despite what statistics say...with all the crazy folks on trains and busses that could attack me at any moment...I'd feel much safer if I could drive my car to work.

Do not praise the motorman of the blue line that derailed and caught fire. I was on car # 7 and watched number 8 derail and catch fire. We did not hear or see the motorman, were given no instructions or directions on where to go or what to do. The only time we heard directions was "40 more feet" from a fire fighter.

On the network news last night, I saw the union spokesman for the transit workers advocating adding a conductor to each train. His rationale is that this would mitigate the complaints about the lack of communication from the engineer after the power had been shut off. According to him, this extra staff person would also have been available to assist the folks in the rear cars as the engineer took care of those folks up front.

I can see his point although I'm sure the CTA has some budget issues with it since it would add another person to payroll and (gasp) the dreaded pension fund.

I also envision this position as someone who would patrol for violations and help fix so many of the problems that are large-in-part due to rider-negligence. Unfortunately, I'm cynical and fear that this would be another useless individual taking up train space while being totally disinterested in his/her job. I can just imagine this person as an onboard version of the Securitas personnel (yikes!). If this is the direction they go in (unlikely), I hope that I'm wrong.

LadyDay, be honest. The vast majority of the "crazies" are harmless; amusing and often socially frightening in a who-is-this-schizo-going-rag-on-next sort of way, but harmless none-the-less. So to say that you'd rather drive a car, contribute to gridlock, pollution, and less public transit funding just because the statistical chance of you getting assaulted by those "crazies" is slightly, ever so slightly greater than zero says more about you than it does about the strange folks who ride the train.

But why should one have to tolerate the crazies, especially now that the announcement doesn't say they will be arrested? Just to maintain the blog? P.S. I have given up driving to the CTA terminal, and now just take Metra (not the RI), for that reason.

The thing with driving is that the people surrounding you on the road are all in control (or not) of very large, very dangerous machinery.

A lot of the preference for cars seems to me to be a desire not to be around other people. In the car, you are carrying around your own little parcel of private space, a luxury you don't have on a crowded train -- no window to roll up if some homeless guy comes up to you or something. I completely understand and sympathize with this feeling. It is something that must be gotten over, though.

Niles...no need for petty personal attacks...you do NOT know me! I have never once, in all my years, driven my vehicle to work. I take the CTA each and every day. I was partly kidding btw. Oh and I'll be sure to tell my friend who was sliced up something terrible by a razor blade weilding crazy guy that he was just harmless!

You know, I was looking up information on this incident today and am absolutely shocked and confounded that this is being covered up. Let's look at the facts and some simple logic: it's the busiest route (or one of the busiest routes) of the CTA trains, it was during the peak of the evening rush hour when the train was fairly close to the city still, the reports admit a fire and derailment of one car (more on that later) but no other details are vague at best, there was a successful terrorist attack on a commuter train in India the EXACT SAME DAY during the evening rush hour, it wasn't even reported right away, the response was quite large and high profile (from a post above: "semis with 'tactical response unit' on the sides, and then MORE firetrucks, these with 'Special Operations' on the sides of them"--sounds like more than just a fire), the emergency teams didn't know where to go, the affected commuters were not given instructions or told what was going on, the authorities that did report it to other commuters merely hid the real incident/danger with generic reports, and those are just the glaring obvious ones...

With all these facts taken into consideration, it's pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that this was a deliberate incident and some sort of foul play was involved, terrorist or not. This was not just some simple accident that happens all the time, as they try to make you believe by playing it down.

One of the affected commuters interviewed on TV said the first thing that came to his mind was "terrorist attack"--because he had heard about the one in India in the morning...

Look at the derailment accident in Chicago in September last year--all five cars derailed. It's pretty standard to have multiple cars derail in the case of a derailment, because of the nature of a derailment. It would take a clean break of one of the cars at a single point to break off one car and have just that car derail. Hmmm, so we're supposed to believe a fire was able to eat through the connection of the car that derailed (in a very short period of time, no less--remember, the entire route isn't that long, the train had recently left the city (think maximum collateral damage) and no one even attempted to put it out?

I myself was on Lake Shore Drive going Northbound at ~6:30 PM and witnessed plumes of white smoke around the buildings of Michigan Ave--I'm still not sure what the hell that was. Maybe it was just low-hanging clouds...?

I drive on Lower Wacker Drive for my morning and evening commute--the next morning the lights were completely out in one specific stop on Lower Wacker Drive. Now, let's apply some common sense for a minute and think about what it takes to take out traffic lights (there was no storm that day)... I don't know about you, but I just can't fathom a fire/derailment of a single train car taking out a set of traffic lights near Michigan Ave.

I'll end the post with this: do your own research, connect the dots, ask questions, look into these stories and don't just accept bullshit excuses as reality. We have been attacked over and over since 9/11 but the authorities don't want to admit it and expose just how bad of a job they are doing and how powerless they really are against this sort of thing. Call me crazy, but I'm not stupid.

I'm just glad I'm moving to the suburbs.

The Hunter: I believe you misunderstand the nature of derailments; they can be due to any number/combination of causes. They're not all created equal.

It's not really that uncommon for only one car to derail, or even only one wheelset; especially if the derailment is at least partly due to excess wear on the wheels/flanges.

Okay, now address the other 15 or so points with plausible explanations...

Ever heard the adage "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?"

You've already mentally connected the dots between a (rather minor; nobody was killed, service was fully restored by the next morning) derailment and a number of other tidbits of information. You don't have "points", you have a series of uncorrelated coincidences (seriously, you're really stretching it with the traffic-lights thing; of course you can't fathom a derailment taking out a set of traffic lights; probably because it has absolutely nothing to do with them) that merely serve to illustrate that the derailment was not the only thing to happen that day.

While it is certainly peculiar and coincedental that the derailment happened on the same day as the terrorist attack in India, that in itself is not very significant. Neither is only one car of eight derailing; I worked for a railroad for eight years; while it didn't exactly happen all the time, there were certainly at least one or two times a year when a car would wind up with wheels on the ground; I'm sure across the country these sorts of things happen all the time as well. Such things are an inconvenience to the railroad but not at all newsworthy; it's only when there's a string of cars laying on their sides (or a derailment during rush hour that causes a bunch of smoke) that a derailment is worth featuring on the news.

I work in Streeterville and it was incredibly foggy here all of last week. I think that's what you're confusing with smoke, Hunter. It's just fog.

I'm still trying to figure out what happened since I wasn't in town when it happened. If it is true that the union is advocating conductors to come back because it would have helped with communication, maybe they should hire more qualified workers. Last I checked you drive a train with your hands so your mouth should be free to make annoucements. I could be wrong

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