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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Metro Crash Draws Criticism Of Metro Safety Measures

Eric Ruble speaks to Metro and its critics about how car-to-train accidents can be prevented.

The details of exactly what happened last Saturday when a Metro train slammed into a Hyundai Sonata near USC are still unclear. But some people are already blaming Metro for the crash, saying the intersection was waiting for an accident. 

The crash marked the eighteenth train-to-car collision in a year for Metro. However, Metro Spokesman Marc Littman said that statistic includes minor accidents, like a side mirror being knocked off. Littman said that since most of the Metro Exposition line is at street level, safety measures can only go so far to prevent cars from going on the tracks at unsafe times.

"We're doing everything we can on the engineering, education and enforcement front ... The trains can't stop on a dime. Look out for trains and pay attention to the laws," said Littman.

Passengers of the Expo line said they feel safe riding the train, even after the accident.

"I think it's still safe. It's safer than commuting on the freeways, which I did for years. I'm happy to have Metro," said Tim Bovard.

Moreover, USC Viterbi School of Engineering professor Naj Meshkati said that the accident shouldn't be a surprise. 

"They said [the driver] tried to beat the train. But to me this is a euphemism for inaction," he said. He blamed Metro leadership for being ineffective in making intersections safe. "The organizational culture is very vague, very unhealthy and needs to be fixed," he added.

LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said the accident underscores the Board's existing call for a safety review.

"The first priority and responsibility for the MTA Board remains the ongoing review of our system, especially as it expands and ages," he said in a release.

Metro says it is looking at several options to improve train safety. One method they will soon test on the Blue line will put a lowered gate in front of left turn lanes when a train is present. This would prevent cars from turning left on red, a problem they speculate may have been the cause of Saturday's crash.

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