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Heritage Trolley Site
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Charlotte - July 2015

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Charlotte, NC

Collision with SUV

July 2015

The Charlotte Observer reported that Charlotte Area Transit System [CATS] has blamed the operator of a Gomaco-built double truck replica Birney for a collision on July 25 with an SUV. "The streetcars have controls at both ends, and the driver, Metro Coston Jr., walked from the front of the car to the back so it could travel in the opposite direction. But the city said he failed to perform a critical function: Turn a dial that would activate controls at the back of the car instead of the front. The driver then attempted to insert a key that would allow him to drive the streetcar. As he tried to do this, he somehow released the brake, Charlotte Area Transit System interim Chief Executive John Muth said.

According to officials, a series of mistakes by the streetcar driver resulted in the Saturday morning accident in which the streetcar rolled out of control roughly a half-mile down Elizabeth Avenue before slamming into an SUV.

The driver repeatedly pressed a large red button on the control panel that controls an electromagnetic emergency brake, but since he hadn’t activated the controls in the back of the streetcar, the brake could not work. The car turned right on Elizabeth Avenue down a steeper grade and began to roll faster. The driver rang the car's gong and nearly two minutes after the car began to roll, Coston contacted the CATS Rail Operations Center. Reportedely the center told the driver to use the streetcar’s third brake, known as a hand brake, which is operated by a large black wheel a few feet to the driver’s right. Turning the wheel would have stopped the streetcar. But despite the control center's instructions, the driver didn’t turn the wheel.

Passengers screamed and held their children tight as the car traveling at about 25 mph rolled into an SUV waiting to turn left. The trolley pushed the SUV out of the way, leaving the car's driver with minor injuries. The trolley finally came to a stop as it climbed an upwardly inclined stetch of track. It then started rollng back down the incline, but this time, after consulting with the operations center again, the operator applied the hand brake stopping the car for good.

The car was operated under its own power to the maintenance facility where tests indicated no problems with the brakes.

Ridership Exceeds Expectations

The Charlotte Observer subsequently reported that July ridership on the new streetcar line averaged 1,507 per day, significanatly ahead of the 1,100 daily forecast made before the line opened, and the 900 daily level submitted in a federal filing.

“Exceeding initial ridership projections demonstrates the public’s continued embracement of rail transit and their support for more transportation choices,” said CATS chief executive John Muth in a statement.


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