Completed 2018 Research Project

Examining the Traffic Safety Effects of Urban Rail Transit: A Review of the National Transit Database and a Before-After Analysis of the Orlando SunRail and Charlotte Lynx Systems

Principal Investigator 
Eric Dumbaugh
Florida Atlantic University
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Candace Brakewood
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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Final Report

Project Slide Deck

Research Brief


This study conducted a longitudinal analysis of light rail and streetcar safety in the United States for the period 2002-2017 using data obtained from NTD. Three key findings emerged from this study. First, the results generally align with findings from prior studies that show the majority of light rail and streetcar collisions occur in mixed right-of-way or near at-grade crossings. Second, this analysis revealed an issue predominantly at stations: 42% of light rail injuries were people waiting or leaving. Third, suicide was the leading cause of light rail fatalities, which represents 28% of all light rail fatalities.

There are some noteworthy limitations of this analysis and important areas for future research. First, the NTD data used in this study considered light rail and streetcars as one mode until 2011; therefore, the multivariate analysis considered them one mode. A separate multivariate analysis for each mode should be conducted as more data becomes available for each mode separately. It is also worth noting that NTD combines injuries and fatalities from safety and security events, which limits the ability to explore safety and security trends separately. In terms of future research, one important challenge identified by this study for further investigation is how light rail operators can improve safety at light rail stations. Another area for future research pertains to suicide and how light rail operators, cities, and mental health experts can respond to this concerning trend.

Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Completed
Start Date: 5-1-2018
End Date: 11-15-2020
Contract Year: Year 2
Total Funding from CSCRS: $123,736
Collaborating Organizations: University of Tennessee, Knoxville