by Max Brantley
Everybody loves to beat up on River Rail. Not me. I love to hear the trolleys rumbling past my building.
But Betty Wineland, executive director of the Central Arkansas Transit Authority, provided a little information about some yammering this week (on radio talks shows and elsewhere) that noted River Rail was running during the big snow, when downtown was virtually deserted. (Not entirely deserted, I and my colleagues at the Times can tell you.)
During snows, unless conditions get too extreme, CATA keeps a single car running on the rail route. Why? To save money and future trouble. The operation clears buildups of ice and snow from overhead electrical lines. If the buildup is too great, the lines can collapse, with expensive effect. The running also keeps clear the "flangeways," or open spaces along the tracks. Should these areas become too ice- and snow-impacted, it can cause derailments, impair braking and cause other problems.
Happy to pass this along for Betty. The buses did struggle through a rough day with vital service for people who can't treat a snow day like a bonus holiday.