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Houston: Rail ridership breezes past other cities

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Jan. 17, 2005, 1:15AM

Rail ridership breezes past other cities

Report has officials glowing, but critics point to total usage and high collision rate

By LUCAS WALL

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

One year into passenger operation, ridership on the Main Street light rail is the highest in the United States per route mile.

But MetroRail also has established itself as one of the most collision-prone American rail lines, recording 63 crashes that involved an injury or at least $1,000 in property damage in its first year of revenue service.

Critics point out the trains move less than 1 percent of Houstonians each day.

The most common way to measure the success of a mass-transit line is by how many people use it. The Main Street line saw its average daily ridership skyrocket 172 percent in its inaugural 10 months, from 12,102 in January 2004 to 32,941 in October.

"We've been told by people around the country that this is one of the most successful light rail lines ever," said David Wolff, Metropolitan Transit Authority chairman.

The passenger count dropped off in November and December

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