METRO Investigates Glare

In the ongoing investigation of Monday's bus-light rail accident — METRO officials want to determine if something is wrong with traffic signals at the intersection of Main and St. Joseph Parkway. Laurie Johnson reports.

METRO video of Monday's accident between a bus and a light rail train shows bus driver Debra Harrison running a red light approximately ten seconds after the light had changed.

The accident happened in the same spot as a previous accident between a bus and light rail train about six weeks
ago.

METRO Vice President of Operations Andrew Skabowski says they're looking at everything on that particular corner
to figure out if something external contributed to the crashes.

"Understand we've run that run, that Main Street line as well as buses across that line for six years without any incidents. And you're right, we've had two in the past six weeks. The reason why we're checking everything is to see if there's an anomoly or if there's something specific related that we can do. Just to see if there's anything we can change possibly at that intersection."

In the video the bus driver does not appear to be distracted and even questions whether the light had actually changed.

"Wasn't that light green?"

"You know I spoke with Ms. Harrison and she's still insistent that the light appeared green to her."

That's David Gollinger, the president of Local 260, the union that represents Houston's transit drivers.

"So we're starting to wonder whether or not there's some light effects off the METRO building at this time of evening, where the sun may be causing the lights to appear to be different color than they are or some other factor — we just don't know, it's too coincidental."

METRO's Skabowski says they're looking into that possibility.

"If there's a possible glare issue, if there's sunlight at a certain angle. The light timing is — well you can see from the video that the light is red — but again let me say that we are looking at all different options."

The traffic signals were checked after the last accident in February and were working properly. No changes have been made to the timing of the signals for the past year.

Pending the outcome of METRO's investigation, Harrison, the bus driver, is suspended without pay. Harrison has two moving violations on her METRO record and has been involved in five accidents since 2007. Four of those were not her fault.

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Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...