Metro trains ran 83 red lights in four years, study finds

Fire officials gather at the site of a collision between a Metro Blue Line train and a bus in downtown Los Angeles in August 2012, which injured 31 people. Blue Line trains ran red lights 52 times from 2011 to 2014.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County light-rail and subway trains ran 83 red lights in the last four years, according to agency data.

The Blue Line, which connects Long Beach with downtown Los Angeles, recorded two-thirds of the violations, and averaged more than one per month from 2012 through last year. The north-south route crosses over multiple major streets and freight tracks.

“One red light violation a year is cause for concern,” but numbers higher than that are “unacceptable," L.A. County supervisor and Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member Michael Antonovich said in a prepared statement.

At a transit agency meeting Thursday, Metro’s board of directors unanimously approved Antonovich’s motion to hire an outside consultant to review red light violations and analyze the adequacy of related equipment, training and management.


Antonovich recalled the 2008 Metrolink rail disaster in Chatsworth and “the tragedy that ensues from a red light violation.” In that head-on train collision, 25 people were killed and 135 were injured.

“Metro welcomes the independent review and remains committed in our efforts to reduce violations of this type and look forward to implementing any and all elements to improve the safety of our system,” spokesman Rick Jager said in an email.

In a brief interview, Jager said Metro trains are equipped with technology that automatically stops the train when the operator runs a red light. It isn’t clear whether that happened in the 83 cases analyzed.  

Train operators are suspended without pay for three to five days the first time they run a red light, Jager said. After the second violation, they are suspended for 30 days without pay, and after the third, they are removed from train duty and returned to bus operations. In each case, they also receive retraining, he said. 


In August 2012, a Blue Line train ran a red light and struck a Metro bus, injuring 31 people. "The incident was every paramedic’s worst nightmare: a traffic collision between mass transit vehicles,” a Los Angeles Fire Department official told The Times after the crash.

“Only luck prevented the train from hitting the bus more squarely,” Antonovich wrote in Thursday’s motion, which was co-written by the other four county supervisors. 

The Gold Line, which links East Los Angeles and Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles, recorded 17 red-light violations from 2011 to 2014. The Red and Purple lines had six, and the Expo Line had seven. 

The line with the lowest number of red-light violations in the last four years — just one — was the Green Line, which runs primarily on a protected right of way along the 105 Freeway from Norwalk to Redondo Beach.

For more Los Angeles transportation news, follow @laura_nelson on Twitter.

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