by Michael Lowrey
Well Charlotte’s new streetcar certainly made an impression over the weekend. Unfortunately, it was to the rear of a SUV that it rammed. Less than a week after service started, as the UPoR headline put it, a “Streetcar driver ‘could not control the trolley’” as it plowed into the back of the vehicle, slightly injuring the driver, and then keep on going until it came to rest at the bottom of a hill. The newspaper’s coverage suggest that things could have been much worse, as apparently the 48,000-pound streetcar was out of control for at least half a mile and ran the light at Charlottetown Avenue.
What went wrong? So far, neither the city nor CATS have said. The incident though is deeply disturbing, as the trolley car in question was lightly-used, and the city/CATS had plenty of time to make sure that it was in top condition and that the driver was well trained. Things like this just should happen, especially now. Hopefully the city and CATS will now come clean as to what happened and why and what they are going to do about instead of trying to play hide-the-ball.
Update: And we now know what went wrong. Per the Charlotte Observer:
CATS interim chief executive John Muth said the driver didn’t switch the controls of the streetcar from the front of the car to the back. The driver also didn’t apply the emergency brake as the streetcar rolled down the hill.
I know that everyone can have a bad day, but those are very basic mistakes with call into question CATS’ training program.