Sunday, March 8, 2009

Houston's Rail Cars Overworked

This was the same story I heard with the first Portland Streetcars. They were overworked but luckily the Skoda models were hardy and didn't break down much. But deferred maintenance to keep people from overcrowding the trains will strain the vehicles eventually. Though the Siemens cars will have to continue to work hard until the new CAF cars get there.


Bob Davis said...

45,000 a day? That's a very good load for a "starter" line. Have the local car/SUV/pickup drivers finally realized that trains have the right of way---and weigh a lot more? When the line opened a few years ago, there was an epidemic of collisions. Is this no longer a big problem, or is it "old news"?

Robert said...


The collisions still occur, but they are either not publicized or not occurring as often.

The 45,000 becomes much less impressive to some when one looks at how much bus ridership as declined. Metro is frequently criticized for its approach of cutting service to downtown from the suburbs, ending it instead at its southern terminus or at the Medical Center transit center.

In essence, I'm suggesting that Metro has saved some money by cutting bus service and transfering riders half-way into their trips onto the more efficient LRT, but travel times have not improved at all. Since travel times are not improved from the suburbs or anywhere else as a result of the light rail, I find it hard to believe that many more people have been attracted to transit due to the red line. The majority of the 45,000 represents a transfer of riders from buses to LRT, not a net-addition for transit.

The red line is a positive step forward, but it is no panacea for which Metro should be offered a pass for future progress improving travel times.

Christof Spieler said...

It's a really good load. More boardings/mile than any other light rail system but Boston.

41% of the Main Street passengers were not riding METRO pre-light rail. 46% take their entire trip on rail. By comparison, only 32% of Houston bus riders make their entire trip on one line.


And yes, the current vehicles are really heavily used; they run most rush hours without a spare. But I don't know that maintenance is being deferred; they seem to have a really good crew who's simply getting every bit of work they can out of the cars.

Anonymous said...

I work for Sacramento's Light Rail, we have 20+ year old Siemens-Duwag U2A and the much newer CAF. As an operator and now a supervisor for light rail, my experience for running these two cars together in one consist is workable. Its not as smooth as a pure consist, but its good enough. Most of the ride quality issue is on the operator's finesse with the stick. It did take a few years and upgrades to fine-tune the U2A's to communicate with the CAF. They do look fugly together though. Other company's mixing cars... Portland's ABB high-floors and Siemens low-floors, Boston's Kinkisharyo Type 7 and Breda Type 8, San Diego's Duwag U2 and Siemen S70. The first cars are 10-20 years older, with different propulsion/braking units than the second cars. Having them mix gives the controllers flexibility in service. said...

...just to note.

The Portland STreetcars where NOT heavily over used or whatever...

They're used very moderately, and the Streetcar barely keeps up with demand. We NEED more cars and more frequency during rush hour but the cost is so high TriMet/Portland Streetcar can't afford to run more of them.

...they also, like !@#$!@#$@# won't charge a fare and most of the run is through our "fareless" square zone.

I'd love to see them actually USE the streetcars and not leave so many people piddling about during rush hour.

Fortunately, most end up just walking anyway. :) If only we could get the fat people to walk instead.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

This is something I heard discussed before they brought on new cars. At the start they had just three I believe and were lucky that the vehicles weren't prone to breakdowns. Correct me if I'm wrong Adron. They have enough cars now too, and they should be run more often. I often claim that ridership would be much higher if the headways were increased.