A couple days ago we featured video of a Green Line train that appeared just about poised to hit a vehicle passing through an intersection with a green light.
The clip raises questions about how train operators, um, conduct themselves as they navigate alongside automobile traffic on busy University Avenue, so we asked Metro Transit a bunch of questions on the topic. Yesterday, spokesperson Drew Kerr got back to us with some answers.
Here are his answers, with our questions in bold:
To what extent are signals integrated between trains and cars, respectively? In other words, is it possible for both a train and a car to have "green lights" to pass through the same intersection, or is there a signalization system that prevents that from occurring?As for the issue of trains constantly having to stop for cross traffic at intersections, Kerr writes, "Predictive priority has been successfully implemented at 10 low-volume intersections along University Avenue, and will be implemented at four additional low-volume intersections in the coming weeks. This work has occurred with support and cooperation from the city of St. Paul."
The traffic and rail signal systems are integrated. It is not possible for crossing vehicle traffic to have a green light at the same time a train is traveling through the intersection.
Any known reports of train conductors running red lights on Blue or Green lines?
As noted in your post, rail operators observe a separate set of signals than those used to control vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. So asking if operators have run a "red light" isn't really the correct question. There is not a comprehensive record of operator compliance with regard to the signals that control train movements at intersections.
Have train operators been at fault in any of the car-involved accidents on the Blue or Green lines?
There have been 19 collisions on the Green Line and 93 collisions on the Blue Line since each service opened. In almost all cases these collisions have been caused by motorists making illegal turns and/or disobeying traffic signals or warning devices. Operator actions have been determined to be a factor in two fully resolved cases:
On January 30, 2014, a Blue Line train slid into the intersection of 34th Avenue and Airport Lane, Bloomington, making minor contact with a trailer. No injuries were reported. An investigation found the operator attempted to slow down but could not stop the train from sliding into the intersection amid heavy snow.
On August 8, 2014, a Green Line train traveling westbound at 12th and Cedar, St. Paul, made minor contact with a vehicle that was determined to be too far forward in the intersection, infringing on the rail right of way. No injuries were reported. An investigation found the operator could have allowed the vehicle to pass before proceeding.
For context: There are more than 200 trips on the Green and Blue Lines each day.
To what extent do the LRT trains operate on cruise control, so to speak? Are operators always responsible for manually accelerating and decelerating trains?
Operators are in control of all train movements and train speed.
"Predictive priority does not guarantee that a train will never stop at an intersection, but it gives trains the best chance of moving through an intersection," he continues. "Initial observations indicate this has reduced the number of stops made by Green Line trains, led to more consistent and predictable running times, and had no adverse impact on cross traffic."