Monday, January 30, 2006

Thanks a Million for METRO Safety

click image for larger version of the banner
Last Thursday morning, Edd Hendee told his radio audience about a banner adorning the Lee P. Brown METRO Administration Building -- a sign proclaiming "70+ Million Safe Miles." Not ten minutes later, the morning traffic reporter warned drivers to avoid a certain downtown Houston intersection that was the site of the most recent accident involving METRO's celebrated light rail train.

According to Action America, Thursday morning's light rail accident was at least the fourth just since the beginning of this year, from a light rail program that averages approximately one accident every six days since its inception in 2004. (The national average for light rail accidents in 7.5 miles of track is around 4 per year.) And only days before, a METRO bus struck a pedestrian in northeast Houston, ultimately killing her. So how can the transit authority back up its impressive claims of safety?

It took a little searching, but I came across this METRO newsletter [PDF file, see page 3] from the spring of 2005, which described the reason for the months-old banner and adds a little information to the puzzling safety record celebrations.
METRO Says "Thanks a Million!" to Elite Group of Bus Operators

METRO President & CEO Frank J. Wilson recently said "Thanks a Million!" to a group of 72 Bus Operators who have contributed the most to making METRO one of the safest transit systems in the nation. They are members of the elite Million Mile Club -- Operators who have driven on Houston roadways for 1 million miles or 25,000 consecutive vehicle hours -- without a preventable accident!
I'm not quite sure what METRO calls a "preventable" accident -- whoever defines that must also be the one to declare that only one of the over 130 confirmed light rail incidents was the fault of the train operators.

Immediately below the "Thanks a Million!" picture and announcement is another brief notice about METRO breaking their safety record again:
For the third year in a row, METRO has set a new record for safety, posting its lowest number of accidents ever per 100,000 revenue miles. ... The new figures represent a 33 percent decrease in METRO's accident rate since 2000. "Safety is no accident at METRO," said President & CEO Frank J. Wilson. "We are dedicated to being the safest system in the country."

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