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Sunday, April 3, 2005

Unscheduled stop

Our house guests are here. They had an interesting morning on Amtrak.

Comments (18)

This is just a reminder that rail is really not very safe.

Light rail like MAX has a death rate about three times that of busses. Private cars are about in the middle between the two.


Unholy smokes! I ride Amtrak a lot, and that would be way too much excitement for me. Sympathies (and brandy, I guess) to your houseguests.

To my knowledge Amtrak does not own the rails it travels on, and relies on freight companies for maintenance as well as access.

Jim, I have a hard time believing that passenger rail is inherently more dangerous than auto traffic (intra-city "light rail" aside). The dangers of auto traffic are woefully underappreciated. I'll brush up on rail to check the facts.


As if OregonLive could get worse as a website -- the new pop-ups requiring closure before a story can be read just did it.

On the bright side, the site is still better than the news and editorial content within. Like what isn't?

Does anybody else find it odd that on a page talking about an Amtrak derailments there's still an advert for the Amtrak cascade's line?

I've seen these ads pop up a couple times (sorry for the length of the URL, but didn't know if you allowed HTML, Jack):

Obviously this is an ad system that's trying to be smart and pickup on keywords, but it's still a bit tasteless.

And I took Max for my first time this last weekend on a trip up to P-town. The scariest part was some of the head cases that were sitting next to mumbling. Or maybe it was just the voices in my head, I'm not quite sure ;-).

Well, that's very interesting JK. I don't have a lot of time to spend with Google this evening, but what I've found in a really brief search implies that you're probably either incorrect, comparing apples to oranges, or both. :-)

For starters, Amtrak is not light rail. Lumping them together is not going to result in a lot of useful data. (Nor is talking about the safety of light rail especially relevant to an Amtrak accident.) But since you're bringing up light rail, I have to say that I don't recall hearing about even a single MAX accident resulting in a fatality for a MAX *passenger* since it begain service. (Although it certainly has squished a number of people who were on the tracks.)

Second, there's an article in the Beeb talking about this very thing. It's talking about British passenger rail, not US, and they are assuredly very different beasts. But in Britain, rail is much safer than it is publically perceived to be. ( I'd be surprised if Amtrak's accident rate isn't higher than the British rail system, but I doubt it's higher than for US passenger cars.

If you have any specific information on fatality rates per passenger-mile for various transport modes, I'd be interested in seeing it linked. I'm willing to be proven wrong.

Good work, Alan. I've been off reading similarly, and rail is a much safer form of transport than car, whether measured in miles or hours. A handful of passengers are killed nationwide in passenger rail accidents. In many studies and measurements, in many countries including this one, it comes up safer than auto by at a minimum 200+ percent. This includes intercity and commuter rail.

By all my readings, rail is really very safe. Autos continue to kill 40k+ per year and injure hundreds of thousands. And close comparisons also, in miles or hours, come up well in rail's favor.

Virtually every study on transit deaths shows that, when measured by fatalities per passenger mile, trains and planes are each 10-20 times safer than driving by car. JK's assertion is flat false.

A death is a death. Passenger or otherwise and MAX has killed 18 to date.
Which I suppose some would argue is not so terribly bad if any of the touted benefits from MAX were actually real.
Unfortunately the information coming out of TriMet and Metro on a regular basis is not unlike the intelligence leading us to war in Iraq. Hopelessly false, misleading and in the case of MAX perpetually believed. At least with the war we ALL NOW KNOW much of the info was flawed.

Here it is almost comical watching the dance for MAX over and over again. The only reason you have trouble comparing deaths and modes is your irrational resistance to the facts of how FEW people MAX carries and how illegitimate the cost is.

We aint seen nothin yet however. The upcoming non-voter approved extensions and the new transit mall will plunge our region into a mess we'll be suffering with for decades.

Remarkably it is virtually all our local elected officials, having such uniform naive malleability, that they are incapable of detecting bad information.
As well as never admitting to any mistakes.

What does the cost of MAX have to do with its fatality rate? 18 deaths? How far back do you think you'd have to go to find 18 deaths on the roads? Two weeks? It also doesn't matter how many riders it has. How many have there been during the 18-deaths time? The whole point of "fatalities per passenger mile traveled" (which is how these are normalized) is that it takes account of such things as light/heavy travel, etc.

Jud How far back do you think you'd have to go to find 18 deaths on the roads? Two weeks? It also doesn't matter how many riders it has. How many have there been during the 18-deaths time?

Time does not matter. Since light rail carries so very few people, it takes a long time to kill. Rleative it its usefulness, passengetr miles, it is very dangerous.

JK: Passenger miles are miles traveled by individual passengers. Only by usnig passenger miles can you compare various modes for safety. In terms of passenger miles, light rail kill about three times as many people as bus. Cars are in between.

How far back do you think you'd have to go to find 18 deaths on the roads? Two weeks? It also doesn't matter how many riders it has. How many have there been during the 18-deaths time?

JK: Number of riders DOES matter as do miles those riders travel. That is the purpose of transportation - to move people some distance. Thus the real measure of usefulness is passenger-miles - it is a measure of how useful it is, it is time that does not matter.

Since light rail carries so very few people, it takes a long time to kill. Relative to it its usefulness in passengetr miles, it is very dangerous.

Passenger miles are miles traveled by individual passengers. Only by usnig passenger miles can you compare various modes for safety. In terms of passenger miles, light rail kills about three times as many people as bus. Cars are in between.

The subject wasn't even about light rail. Your original contention, jim, off Jack's post on the Amtrak derailment, was that "rail is really not very safe."

From all my reading, that contention is in stark, even reverse, contrast to fact.

Maybe this bugger about light rail should take up in another discussion.


jud "What does the cost of MAX have to do with its fatality rate? 18 deaths?"

The cost relative to ridership underscores the illegitimacy of the mode. The death rate per passenger also underscores that illegitimacy.

jud"How far back do you think you'd have to go to find 18 deaths on the roads? Two weeks?"

In the MAX service area much further than that and since we are talking about rates of death, roads are no where near the MAX rate.

jud"It also doesn't matter how many riders it has."

Of course it does. The more people it carries the greater merit the cost in dollars and lives has.

Because relatively few people are served by MAX
the costs cannot be justified by any stretch of the imagination.
If you can say it doesn't matter how many riders it has than I suspect you would say it doesn't matter how much it costs either.

What matters most is the real ridership numbers, real costs and real relationships to congestion, pollution, our transportation system and planning in general.

All of which demonstrate waste, illegitimacy, and terrible planning.

I would rather see us dump light rail and bolster our roads and bus and real rail systems. The beneficiaries would be AMTRAK, our Port, commerce, commuters, transportation system and economy.

Staying the course means all will suffer.

Wow. From an Amtrak derailment to the cost-effectiveness of light rail in eight posts. It's like eight degrees of MAX.

I know for a fact that combined freight and heavy passenger rail in Salem has killed about thirty people over about 10 miles of track in the last 12 years. (Several of them within a quarter mile of my house.) None of them were passengers or crew on the trains. You apparently expect me to believe that less killed over more miles of track, more years, a higher train frequency, and a vastly higher passenger count indicates that MAX is *less* safe than heavy passenger rail and freight?

I'm having a little trouble with that one, chief.

Now, I'm not unwilling to believe what you say about safety and light rail relative to other transport modes. Salem has a particularly dangerous stretch of urban heavy track, after all. But all you're doing is spouting assertions, and assertions that seem pretty counterintuitive at that. You're gonna have to work a bit harder to convince me. I want some numbers to back up your assertions before I'll give 'em another thought. Got any?

As for the cost-effectiveness of light rail, that may be an issue. After you show some satisfactory evidence supporting your assertions about the easily-measureable stuff above, I'll listen to what you have to say about the harder to measure price-performance of MAX.

Until then, even Tri-Met has more credibility than you do. :-)

What do yo mean "the cost-effectiveness of light rail may be an issue"?


Where have you been? You have never seen any real numbers on MAX ridership or cost?

Are you starting from ground zero?

I can see how you think "the price-performance of MAX is hard to measure" if after all these years you have yet to click your way to the mountain of data available.
TriMet has credibility? According to what measurement? Opinions from remnants of the faithful Katz regime? I mean come on Alan. The amount of false and misleading information TriMet uses to promote themselves has been staggering. The performance of MAX and TriMet as a whole has been abhorrent. Now that they are pushing the transit mall, more light rail lines and commuter rail, all under false pretenses, they have crossed into pure maleficence. Their agenda simply does not do what they claim. We have a 20 year track record which proves it. Furthermore, that agenda is driving our region into deeper trouble and the opposite direction they claim.
None of that matters because you like it.

Dude, I live and work in SALEM. Of course I haven't paid any attention to light rail lately. You're lucky I even know what MAX is. :-)

Some links to numbers, please, or this conversation will be over and I'll be moving on with my life. (No, I am not going to look for 'em myself. You claim to know where they are, so show me.)

Here's a start. You can very easily google yourself to reality.

Why Rail?
by Emory Bundy
Why do we support systems that almost never work?

What, that's the best you can do? That article barely mentions Portland; the words "MAX" and "Tri-Met" appear not at all. Half the article is devoted to saying why Seattle's plan sucks. (Which may be highly relevant to Seattle's problems, but not at all to Portland's.) There are very few numbers of the sort I'm after, and none of them measure MAX.

You do know what I mean when I ask for numbers, right? Things like deaths and injuries per passenger mile, ridership per year, operating cost per passenger mile (or year), and infrastructure cost per year. Ultimately we need to compare these numbers for light rail to similar ones for other modes, but for now I'll settle for just numbers on MAX. (Not on other light rail systems, but MAX.)

By the way, you misunderstood me earlier. I didn't say that Tri-Met was credible. I said that, so far, you're less credible to me than Tri-Met. You can change that if you like, but to do so you'll have to actually provide what I'm asking for. You're the one who is advocating a position and who claims to know a lot about this, not me. I'm just a mildly-interested bystander. (You might be locally famous and respected, but *I* don't know you from Adam.) All I'm asking is that you link to some of the numbers that you previously claimed supported your position.

If you don't show me some, this is my last post on this thread. (Where there's smoke and mirrors, there's surely flames to follow. I don't want to go there. I've already been less polite here than I like to be, and I don't want to offend our host.)


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