Today’s Headlines

  • 32 Hurt When Blue Line Train Jumps Platform at O’Hare (Tribune, Sun-Times)
  • Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Man, 33, in West Town (NBC)
  • Metra Considers Installing Ticket Cams at Crossing Gates (Sun-Times)
  • Orseno: Penalizing Metra’s Freight Partners for Delays Is Not a Good Strategy (Tribune)
  • Red Light Cams Seem to Be Succeeding in Changing Driver Behavior (DNA)
  • Study Finds 1 of 5 Chicago Drivers Are Likely Violating Cell Phone Ban (RedEye)
  • Blue Line Riders Unfazed by Need for Shuttle Bus Ride During Track Work (DNA)
  • ‘L’ Trains Bypassed Several Far North Stations for Electrical Work Last Weekend (DNA)
  • Navy Pier Flyover Work Starts Today (Sun-Times)
  • Drivers Are Disobeying Turn Signals Along dearborn PBL (Transitized)
  • Irving Park-Austin Business district to Get Ped Improvements, People Spot (DNA)
  • BiblioTreka Library Bike Service to Roll Again After Successful Fundraiser (DNA)

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  • Anne A

    I hope there’s a witness who can identify the hit and run driver in the West Town crash.

  • CL

    “In Chicago, nearly 18 percent of all drivers who were observed during the study. . .were holding cellphones or other electronic devices close to their ears or faces.”

    That’s just when those people were observed. I’m sure that the percentage of drivers who have violated the ban at some point is much higher than 18%. When I’m in traffic, I look over and see tons of people looking at their laps. I also observe friends and family doing it. And I’m technically a violator even though I only use my phone (to look at Google Maps) when I’m stopped at a red light. I know it would be legal if I put my car in park instead of just holding my foot on the break, but I don’t bother since there is no enforcement. It’s very rare to meet someone who is committed to never, ever looking at their phone while driving.

  • BlueFairlane

    I am the exception that proves the rule. I have never and will never use a cell phone while driving, but I hate modern mobile technology anyway. Which is to say that this is a law only cranky Luddites won’t break.

  • CL

    That’s true — people who have little use for cell phones aren’t tempted to look at them. But as someone who is constantly on my smartphone, I find it incredibly hard to resist looking at my phone while driving. Especially when I hear new texts, or when I’m anxious about a response to an e-mail that I’ve sent.

    I do resist because I’m committed to keeping my eyes on the road, but it takes a tremendous amount of willpower. I have to keep telling myself “No, you can’t look, wait until the next red light.” So I get it. The temptation + lack of enforcement makes it pretty understandable that so many people are on their phones. This is going to be a problem until we figure out a technology solution, probably.

  • Looking forward to detailed railhead Streetsblog coverage of the O’Hare blue line train crash — that thing must have been going insanely too fast to end up THAT far up the escalator … and why didn’t the backstops halt it?

  • BlueFairlane

    Somebody pointed out in a comment someplace else that the train probably weighed 325,000 pounds. (They assumed it to be a six-car train.) You wouldn’t have to be pushing that much weight very fast at all to build up enough momentum to do what this train did. I’m betting we’ll eventually hear it was doing something between 20 and 30 mph.

  • Fred

    What I think happened is that the accelerator stayed on for a bit after the train left the tracks. Every car is self propelled so even if the first car jumped the platform, it had 7 cars continuing to push it. Basically, I don’t think it was completely inertia that got the train into its final position.

  • BlueFairlane

    It’s possible, though I suspect the propulsion the other cars provided is really a negligible amount compared to the train’s momentum. The wheels likely would have been skidding, anyway. I doubt it accounts for more than a foot of the distance the train traveled.

  • I’ve asked for more details about the survey results than the press release provides. It deals with a lot of averages and I want to run my own stats.

  • Yes, but the endstop technology is designed to handle it, up to well past the speeds that should have happened.

  • BlueFairlane

    The designed definition of “handle it” is probably something similar to what happened.

    For fun, I did some calculations, using a simplified version of this situation. Say you have a solid aluminum block weighing 325,000 lbs sliding over concrete at an initial speed of 25 mph. If you remove the force pushing the block and let friction take over, it will take about 450 feet to slide to a stop. Now, this train didn’t slide anywhere near that far, largely thanks to the decelerating force applied by the endstop and the effect of the incline plane provided by the escalator. But try imagining what happens to all this momentum if the endstop keeps this train on the track, effectively decelerating 325,000 lbs from 25 to 0 instantly. Best-case, the trailing cars would completely crush the first car and possibly the second, doing very bad things to anything inside them. Worst case, the trailing cars would come off the track and bounce around the station, doing very bad things to anything standing around a much greater area.

    In short, no technology is going to stop something this heavy moving at that speed, and really, you don’t want it to.

  • Ryan Wallace

    Many reports now that the likely scenario was the conductors hand was jolted forward upon hitting the backstops. Meaning it was going normal speed approaching the backstop, upon hitting it the train actually accelerated slightly to jump the track.

  • Kevin M

    Nice analysis.