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Metro Says Faulty Equipment Is Causing Rail Delays

Metro hopes a major repair project will help keep its trains running on time. Officials say they want to correct problems that could delay riders from making connections.


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Metro says delays on the light rail line can cause problems for riders trying to make bus connections.
Gail Delaughter
Metro says delays are being caused by faulty axle counters on the tracks.

Metro says in the mornings, the on-time performance of its light rail trains is about 92 percent. But during the heat of the afternoon, that number has dropped as low as 39 percent.

So what's the problem? Metro CEO Tom Lambert says it's the fault of axle counters, devices in the tracks that count the number of trains going by.

The axle counters trigger the signals that allow the trains to go. But those devices haven't been performing well in Houston's summer weather.

"When we really see the heat of the day, we're seeing train delays added eight to ten minutes," explains Lambert. "That's not good for our customer. It's not good for running an expansive system. It's not good when you're trying to integrate high-frequency bus routes."

To fix the issue, Lambert says they're putting in new axle counters. That work will be done by Houston Rapid Transit, the joint venture that built the lines. It's expected to cost about $30 million.

Lambert is expecting some inconvenience for riders while they do those repairs.

"The staff is also working with HRT to look at various scenarios," says Lambert. "If we do it, do it in a nighttime closure, how long does it take to get it done? If we do it where we do a weekend closure, how long does it take to get it done?"

Along with fixing the axle counters, Lambert says they've also had conversations with the city about signal light timing. He says they're trying to prevent "bunching" where trains are running too closely together.