Semi-Truck / Streetcar Collision

The afternoon of Tuesday, April 30, 2013, a semi-truck collided with a Portland streetcar at the intersection of SE Market St. & SE MLK Blvd.

I happened to be nearby and captured the process of separating and removing the two vehicles. The truck had a flat tire and bent wheel (in addition to major body damage) but was able to move a short distance under its own power before being towed. The streetcar, which had been knocked off of the tracks by about a foot, was lifted back onto the rails by crane, and then towed back to the maintenance facility using a 2nd streetcar.

According to others at the scene, there were no injuries.

UPDATE 5/1/2013:

The following operations update was sent to members of the Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee:

From March 27 to April 27, 2013 we experienced a 100% rate of operating all scheduled vehicles. On April 30 a CL Line streetcar was hit by a semi-truck turning left off of SE Market onto SE MLK Jr. Blvd. The accident blocked all of MLK from just before 2pm to approximately 4:30pm. The Streetcar was put back on the rails and towed back to the maintenance facility. We are estimating that Car 002 will return to revenue service around June 1, 2013. The CL Line will be down one train Monday-Friday until Car 021 enters into service. Car 021 (the first production vehicle from United Streetcar) is now expected to enter revenue service May 14, 2013

19 responses to “Semi-Truck / Streetcar Collision”

  1. He seemed remarkably at-ease, considering… From what I overheard, he was not cited by police, at least not at the scene.

  2. “According to others at the scene, there were no injuries.”

    How many passengers were on the streetcar? My bet would fewer than 5.

  3. Good thing the truck crashed into an Eastside streetcar. On any other line someone might have been hurt.

  4. Were those cars fully coupled, or was that just a temporary/emergency connection? Could they be operated in revenue service like that (assuming we had longer platforms)?

  5. Will this affect service at all, since there aren’t any spares (at least I didn’t think there were)?

  6. I’ve just received an update sent to the Streetcar CAC and I’ve updated the post.

    What follows is my opinion on how this could affect service over the next two weeks (May 14th):

    It is correct that there are no spares. Crews have been working hard to keep every available streetcar in service, which hasn’t been easy due to the somewhat finicky nature of the prototype car. (Subsequent cars due for delivery have significant changes since that prototype was made a couple of years ago, and the prototype is due to go back for upgrades as there are enough spares on-hand to remove it from service.)

    With the current number of cars, the CL line runs at approx. 18-minute headways. This is also a problem because the NS line runs at different headways, so bunching often occurs on the shared route segments. Ideally, the CL and NS should both run at 15-minute (or better) headways, and staggered so that they overlap cleanly with 7.5-minute headways on 10th/11th and no bunching.

    PSI has tried a few strategies for days when a streetcar goes out of service to deal with the no-spares problem. One strategy was to turn CL trains around in the Pearl District so as to avoid the 10th/11th/PSU stretch, thus maintaining regular services frequencies on the east side, but this also required riders to make an inconvenient transfer (a few blocks away in one case). That proved too confusing to riders, especially for changes in the middle of the day, so the strategy was dropped.

    Instead, a single run is omitted from the schedule and riders are notified on the NextBus displays. What this means is that there is an occasional gap in the schedule where the headway is 36 minutes, rather than 18 minutes. That’s pretty bad, but on the plus side riders do not need to transfer or cross to another side of the street (when conventional shuttle buses are used with right-side-only boarding).

    So now with even fewer cars, PSI will have to choose between running with a daily 36-minute gap between a few 18-minute streetcars until May 14th, or readjusting the schedules so the CL line runs with consistent but longer average headways, and then switching back when enough streetcars are available. But that would require altering printed schedules which some people use (you can print them off of the web site) and then altering them back again. Not a great set of options.

    (I don’t think they’ll reallocate any cars from the NS line, as that line is already pretty crowded.)

  7. And again … why can’t Portland Streetcar put a Vintage trolley onto the CL line as a placeholder to replace that missing car instead of leaving a 36 minute gap? It would be only temporary until a replacement streetcar arrives.

    I know the Vintage Trolleys aren’t ADA compliant, but does the ADA really require that we inconvenience 100% of riders instead of maybe 5% because we have a temporary shortage of cars? The ADA requires “reasonable accommodation” not “unreasonable denial of service.” I don’t think that (temporarily) eliminating some service to everyone because you (temporarily) can serve just 95% is “reasonable.” After all, it’s not like we actually have available streetcars, and the Vintage Trolleys aren’t doing anything right now except gathering dust.

    Just put up a notice on the CL line shelters that “vintage trolley is in temporary service on CL line until new streetcar is delivered” or something like that. If someone decides to be a jerk and sue, just stop doing it.

    I’d suggest using a bus, but there are several left-side platforms that would be problematic for boarding, plus the problem with the OMSI station at the end of the line.

  8. I asked about the Vintage Trolleys at a CAC meeting and from what I’m told, they can’t handle the extended steep grade on the ramp to the OMSI station, it’s the brakes.

    Previously I had suggested renting/borrowing a BRT-style bus from Eugene/Springfield LTD, because those have doors on the left and right and could conceivably serve all streetcar stops (unless there’s a technical limitation, but this should still be investigated).

    Ironically, there are future plans to add a turning section at the south end of the CL line, so streetcars could turn around at SE Stephens Street without serving OMSI, in which case Vintage Streetcars could be run and just skip the OMSI stop. But that turnaround is not in place at this time.

    I think PSI may have been reluctant to persue other outside-the-agency alternatives (like Eugene BRT buses) because the new cars were to be delivered any-day-now (back in December/January), but delays have now stretched into May. Any-day-now is now scheduled for May 14th, and I really really hope this will not slip further.

  9. PS… In another thread, weeks ago, someone brought up that Vintage Streetcars have no problem with the ramp to 1st. Ave from the Steel Bridge, a similar grade, and I do not know what the difference is about the OMSI ramp that makes Vintage Streetcars unsuitable.

  10. “Previously I had suggested renting/borrowing a BRT-style bus from Eugene/Springfield LTD, because those have doors on the left and right and could conceivably serve all streetcar stops (unless there’s a technical limitation, but this should still be investigated).”

    This a practical, common sense idea that would work very well. Therefore, there is Zero chance of it happening.

    If for no other reason, the last thing the TriMet folks want to do is give the people of Portland a taste of BRT, lest they might demand more.

  11. Since the truck driver had a stop sign, and pulled out in front of a vehicle proceeding along MLK without a stop sign, it seems the truck driver is at fault. If true, he or the company should be responsible not only for repairs to the streetcar, but for the cost of the inconvenience to all riders through June when the streetcar may be operational again. (Sort of like when someone hits your car, they’re responsible not only for repairs but for your rental car in the meantime) Would this need a civil suit?

  12. Does LTD have any EmX buses to spare? If so, that option seems the sort of solution that could be implemented literally overnight. Agree on a per-day rental, drive a couple of them up here and put them to work until the new streetcars arrive.

    I can’t imagine what sort of technical problems would preclude an EmX bus from operating on the Streetcar corridor, except maybe problems at the OMSI ramp — in which case the bus could just head down MLK, take the off-ramp to Division, make its way to the OMSI station that way, and then return via the on-ramp to Grand from SE 6th Ave. Yeah, it’s the long way around and probably looses a couple minutes on the return, but that could be balanced (in part) by a shorter layover.

  13. Would this need a civil suit?

    I believe PSI has insurance that covers this. It would be up to the insurance company how they seek to recover from the trucking company.

  14. I recall reading that the LTD BRT buses in Eugene/Springfield literally rub the curb of platforms to “dock”, with the sides of platforms having a Teflon strip. (This is not a totally alien idea, the Portland Aerial Tram has a similar arrangement at its platforms.) I do not know if this is an absolute requirement, or if curb heights also come into play, it would be worthwhile I think at this point to have an answer to applicability for the Portland Streetcar’s platforms.

    Incidentally, back during the Portland Transit Mall remodeling discussions, I suggested that the left lane (now a continuous multi-modla lane) could be used to enhance Mall capacity as a bus lane if BRT-style buses with left-side boarding were used.

  15. If for no other reason, the last thing the TriMet folks want to do is give the people of Portland a taste of BRT, lest they might demand more.

    If that were true, I don’t think that Mr. McFarlane would have been quite so amenable to and expository on the concept in the most recent Your Questions for Neil episode.

  16. Does LTD have any EmX buses to spare?

    I don’t personally know. However, they have been expanding the system recently and ordering more vehicles, and it would only take one or two to make up for the problems in Portland, so it’s probably worth investigating further.

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