The following is the Fix Expo press release requesting Congressional investigation and hearings of MTA, the nation’s deadliest light rail system.
Los Angeles, CA – Following two separate Blue Line train accidents yesterday, which left a 45-year old male pedestrian dead in South LA and a 49-year old woman in critical condition in Downtown LA, rail safety advocates are requesting Congressional investigation and hearings into MTA’s rail safety and planning. They say the failure of MTA to address safety deficiencies on the light rail after 18 years of operation, along with the expansion of the proven defective design in more complex urban environments in South LA and East LA are the product of a failed rail safety culture that is leading to preventable deaths on Los Angeles’ streets. The two accidents on the Blue Line, which travels at street-level between 35-55 mph in dense urban areas from Downtown LA through South LA, Watts, Willowbrook, and Compton en route to Long Beach, bring the train’s death count up to 93 from over 826 accidents. It is the deadliest light rail train in the nation.
In a January op-ed in a Los Angeles newspaper, the creator of USC’s Transportation Safety Program, Professor Najmedin Meshkati wrote “These numbers, which are significantly higher than national average rates of accidents and fatalities along the MTA rail network, attest to the dire state of rail safety in LA, which is primarily caused by MTA’s outdated and messy safety-related policies, procedures and practices.”
“There have been years where the Blue Line was responsible for half of all light rail deaths in the entire country, and MTA has repeatedly refused to appropriate the funds necessary to make the system safe,” said Damien Goodmon of the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line. “Clearly, MTA is indifferent to the safety of the members of the public who must interface with their trains. Absent Congressional intervention and oversight to require MTA quickly implement necessary changes to their rail system and internal processes, MTA will continue killing on the tracks with impunity. How much longer must these preventable tragedies continue to occur?”
But rail safety advocates and experts say significant blame also falls on the California Public Utilities Commission and Federal Transit Administration, the state’s railroad regulatory agency and federal transit appropriation agency, respectively. “In addition to allowing the unsafe conditions on the Blue Line to go unaddressed for nearly two decades, the CPUC has granted approval and the FTA has provided funding for light rail designs that are nearly identical to the Blue Line and run through even more complex urban environments in South LA with the Expo Line, and in East LA with the Eastside Light Rail Extension,” said Goodmon.
“The CPUC actually gave MTA approval to double the number of trains that run on the most accident prone section of the Blue Line in Downtown beginning in 2010,” Goodmon continued. “At a public hearing on Expo in July a parent of a Foshay School student questioned the credibility of the CPUC by highlighting their refusal to do anything about the Blue Line. In response, the CPUC’s administrative judge said to the amazement of the audience, ‘The Blue Line is safe.’ There’s a problem when the state’s railroad regulatory agency equates the word ‘safe’ with the train line that is by multiples the deadliest light rail in the country – a line that has a fatality rate 98 times greater than even the cars.”
Following the tragic Metrolink Chatsworth accident in September, Meshkati wrote, “[T]he current regulatory, oversight and operational structure for ensuring rail safety in California is not working.”
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