i fought the train and the train won

Thursday, September 02, 2004, at 09:45AM

By Eric Richardson

The Blue Line struck and killed a pedestrian yesterday. The Times report says that brings the line's body count up to 62.

Including Wednesday's fatality, more than 22 occupants of vehicles and more than 40 pedestrians have been killed along the Blue Line since it began operating in 1990, making it the deadliest of the MTA's four rail routes.

That number sounds a lot worse than it is, and the people who like to use this as fodder to hold against Metro are really abusing the facts. These accidents are almost exclusively the result of people failing to obey the appropriate warning signals. Everyone thinks they can beat the train, but the truth is you really can't. It's really big, and it moves pretty fast.

All the warning systems indicating an approaching train — including blowing whistles and flashing lights — were working, Ubaldo said.

With a rush-hour crowd gathering at the station, the woman joined a group of people, including her companion, in racing across the tracks in front of the oncoming train, Ubaldo said.

She was struck near the entrance of the platform and died at the scene, Ubaldo said.

Now, first off, let's all ask ourselves who's editing the Times. If I ended three straight paragraphs with "Ubaldo said," I'd get a lot of red ink on my paper. Maybe the Times doesn't grade so hard, though.

Los Angeles is in no way unique in this problem. Any time you have a rail line operating at street grade, especially in the roadway, you're going to have accidents. Drivers are dumb; pedestrians are dumb. These are just facts. If you look at coverage of Houston's light rail, you'll see that they've had 56 accidents since January. And most of these accidents involve drivers making illegal left turns into the path of a train.

Bottom line: Don't try to outrun the train, and don't blame the train when you try to outrun it and fail. Yes, grade-separation is wonderful, but the expense means it's not going to be a universal reality. Drive (and walk) smarter, and you won't die.