Elevating Mass Transit

October 1, 2004 by  
Filed under Edit

Looking for a solution to the ‘honk-screech-crash’ method of public transit? Maybe we should go up, up and away.

Living up to its image of “Space City” by installing 7.5 miles of light rail (eat your heart out, Dallas), Metro is now looking at ways to expand the rail service as much as another few miles. The problem is, there is a problem: The trains keep slamming into cars.

The situation has become so common and such non-news that the local media hardly give these wrecks a mention anymore and concentrate on the more meaningful coverage of lost cats. But we can safely assume that the more mileage of tracks we build, the more train-car collisions we will have. In virtually all of these wrecks, it has been the drivers of the cars who were at fault, usually making illegal left turns in front of the trains. This simply shows that Houstonians make those illegal turns 24 hours a day but only get caught when they are hit by a multi-ton passenger train. So the expansion plans present some real challenges.

Still, we all know the No. 1 rule around here: Don’t complain unless you have a solution. Let us offer our advice to our mass transit agency.

On the Level

The main problem with all of these wrecks is that the trains and the cars run on the same level, i.e., the ground. One cutting-edge solution would be to build the new tracks below the surface, yet another scientific breakthrough for Houston. These underground rail lines would be called “subways” and would move people safely and quickly in trains deep beneath the surface while avoiding all but the most inebriated motorists. There is the problem of flooding, of course, so we install a big drain with a plug and mount heavy-duty windshield wipers on the trains themselves.

Up, Up and Away

Once, several years ago, Houston dallied with the idea of building a monorail, a one-track elevated train system, but a majority of our citizens felt it was “too modern” for this city. Also, there was the danger of the monorails falling off the edge of the earth.

Now, Las Vegas has built a monorail parallel to the Strip, connecting nine casinos and the convention center. This idea shouldn’t stay in Vegas. Houston should consider building its next section of track as a monorail, up above the traffic.

The advantages are obvious. While riding the train, we could go fast, avoid other vehicles and look in second-story bedroom windows. To be sure, there are disadvantages, not the least of which is falling off the edge of the earth. Another idea: We could build the new tracks at the ground level and elevate all the streets.

Study Hall

Before we make any decision on how and where to put the new tracks, the situation needs to be thoroughly studied. We should hire a top-flight transportation expert and pay him or her loads of money. Oddly enough, I know just the person.

Oh, Say, Can You See?

We seem to have stealth trains because they are invisible to so many Houston drivers. Metro has put bells and lights and all sorts of attention-grabbers on the trains, clearly without success. What would cause people to take notice of something the size of a house moving their way?

Maybe if we painted “Free Sex” on the nose of the train. Or, “Ask About My Anthrax.” Perhaps, “Honk If You Have WMDs.” Or, better yet, we put up pictures of Tom DeLay and John Culberson. With them gazing down, no one would dare make a left turn.

A Variation of the Above Ideas

Since the collisions involve the front of the train, we have two options. We could put cow catchers on the noses, or the trains could simply run in reverse. Other solutions include putting a picture of an MTA train on the side of milk cartons with the question: “Have you seen me?”

Edifice Wrecks

Avoid more collisions by leaving the trains in the barn.

Less is More

We could change the trains themselves to some form of transportation that would move slower than Houston traffic and thus give car drivers a chance to get out of the way. Besides, mules are cheaper. In any event, we have paid hundreds of millions of dollars for this mass transit system, and the problem of these constant collisions needs our solution. We must use our imaginations. Think outside the bucks. Which reminds me, we need that study. When you write the check, remember there are two “n’s” in “Lynn.”

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