Hiawatha takes another life.

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Light-rail train hits, kills man in south Minneapolis

"It was the second death at the 46th Street Station, and the fifth along the full line since light rail started running in 2004. In August 2006, a bicyclist was killed after crossing diagonally through the rail arms and flashing lights."

Nationally reported fatalities on (rail?) transit systems range from 26 in 2002 to 57 in 2004, averaging 40.67. So of those, about 2 per year are on the Hiawatha line alone, and are about 5% of national transit deaths on rail. That seems way too high.

In Minneapolis, Hiawatha serves about 10% of transit trips.


The National Transit Database (which is buried pretty deeply, perhaps so prying eyes can't easily find the data) does not report fatalities. Nationally there are about 285 fatalities per year (2002 numbers) on all transit according to the TSAR.

I suppose system specific bus safety is data not meant to be easily accessed (fatalities by bus systems), because I can't find it at the Metro Transit website either. The Metro Transit Transportation Audit e.g. does not mention safety.

NHTSA seems to bury transit bus safety data as well, perhaps leaving it to FTA.

The net of this is if bus carries 10x rail in terms of number of passengers in the Twin Cities, and they were equally safe, we would expect 50 fatalities in the past 3 years. I don't believe that is the case (even counting on-board violence). So LRT far is more dangerous than bus, and at this rate, perhaps more dangerous that private vehicles.

At what point do enough individual anecdotes become a policy problem?

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However -- urban pedestrians are used to cars and busses having no trouble running them over. I don't think everyone understands the acceleration ability of electrically driven rail systems -- the signals are working, but some assume they are over tuned for safety so they attempt to cross anyhow.

I wonder what percentage of these deaths are on non-grade-separated systems vs grade-separated. I wouldn't be surprised if the non-grade-separated systems account for well over half of the fatalities on rail transit (or more).

David Levinson

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on November 22, 2007 8:03 AM.

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