[Metro officials watch a Gold Line train (now doing testing) curve around Indiana and 3rd Street. That car knows to be patient.]
Yesterday morning, a delegation of three Metro officials trooped out to the new Indiana stop along the nearly-open Gold Line Extension in Boyle Heights, meeting us to 1. Explain how it was that our car wound on the tracks near the Indiana stop last week. 2. Provide some important safety tips on driving around the new six-mile line. 3. Make lots of jokes. But back to getting caught on the tracks. What happened? Are we idiots? Pretty much, according to Metro. “You ran a red light,” said Rail Systems Safety Manager Abdul Zohbi. “You’ll be getting a ticket in the mail.” Hah!
There are two sets of lights near the new Indiana Gold Line stop at Indiana and 3rd Street: One set is before the tracks and the second set of lights is at the intersection of Indiana and 3rd.
Last Sunday morning, we found ourselves stopped at the second set of lights, thinking we could make a right on red on Indiana. But in actuality, you can't make a right there (a sign tells you that you can't). Because we were in the area between the two lights---which'll now be called the BOX--our car was on the tracks. A train was coming around the corner and had to stop to avoid hitting us.
Basically, a car should never stop in the box because that's where the tracks are. And Zohbi thinks we ran the first red light and that's why we ended up on the tracks. That's possible. Without a Zapruder film to know exactly what happened, we'll have to trust Metro's assessment that we ran the light. And oooh, Zohbi was funny. He really rubbed it in.
"Were you texting? Were you doing your nails? he teased. Oh, snap! Neither, neither! We prefer to do our press-ons on the 10 Freeway while maneuvering the steering wheel with our thighs. Hell of an adrenaline rush.
ABOUT THOSE LIGHTS
As commenters like R20 pointed out on the original post, and as the Metro guys told us, the two sets of lights (there's also a set of lights at 1st and Indiana) are synced. For instance, at the 3rd and Indiana stop, when the first set of lights goes red, the second light goes red 11 seconds later, so all the cars that just passed through the first set of lights can clear the box. It's the same situation at the 1st and Indiana stop, although the timing is slightly different because it's a smaller intersection.
And if there ever was a situation in which there was a traffic jam where the cars couldn't clear the box--like a bottleneck of cars---and a car found itself stuck in the box, Vijay Khawani, Director, Corporate Safety at Metro, says a driver should do as much as they can to maneuver their car away from the tracks. At the Indiana and 3rd Street stop, you could feasibly jimmy your car over to the left to avoid being hit by the train. Nevertheless, Khawani doesn't foresee a situation of traffic causing a car to be stuck in the box.
As for that photo at 1st and Indiana that showed the first set of lights being green--and the second set being red---Metro officials explained it this way: The first set goes green (which the photo showed) and one second later, the second set goes green. Our photo simply didn't show the second light going green.
The trains on this new line will go up to speeds of 35 miles/hour (underground, they can go up to speeds of 55 miles). But around the Indiana station and the Alameda station, the tight corners will dictate slower speeds. "It’s such a sharp curve," said Khawani, adding that Metro's operating rules and procedures dictate that conductors go 10 miles an hours at these corners.
ABOUT THE BOX
Meanwhile, we asked about maybe making the box area more visible ie, make it more clear you shouldn't stop in the area. Zohbi said they were considering adding additional markings in the box. He drew an image on our notepad of what it would look like:
RUMORED NOVEMBER 14th OPENING? Can't confirm, said Metro. But they did tells us that an official announcement about the line would be made in the next few days.
Has anyone else complained about getting caught in the box during this testing process? "Just you," was the answer.
Here's Zohbi pointing to the Indiana and 1st Street intersection.