A family of five might like some of the features of a snazzy two-seater that can fit into almost any nook or cranny of a parking space, but will it do what the family needs doing? Of course not.
Fast, Frequent and Reliable
Honolulu residents are like that family of five. Our collective need for transit requires it to be a fast, frequent and reliable alternative to sitting in traffic for 100,000 or more riders each day.
Our rail transit train must travel the 20 miles between East Kapolei and Ala Moana Center at relatively high speeds – 55 mph or more between stations. It must do so frequently, with only 3 minutes or even less time between trains during rush hour. And it must make its fast and frequent runs reliably on time, every time.
Despite the alleged advantages of the new proposal, it would be about as useful to Honolulu commuters as a Smart Car is to a family of five. Putting any portion of the system at street level would destroy all three of our requirements.
And since at-grade trains would share streets with pedestrians, cars and trucks, it would not be reliable due to the inevitable accidents that occur just about everywhere at-grade systems operate.
That’s Not All
Because at-grade trains must be shorter than the shortest city block (about 170 feet in Chinatown) to avoid blocking intersections, they could be only half as long as elevated trains, which means each train would carry fewer passengers.
Finally, the new study’s claim that at-grade rail would be cheaper also is suspect. Consider what would happen to property along Dillingham Boulevard, for example, if tracks were to run at street level rather than overhead as currently planned.
Dillingham is a major east-west thoroughfare through urban Honolulu, so that last thing you’d want to do is increase vehicle congestion by eliminating lanes to accommodate rail. The only way to retain the same number of lanes would be to widen the Dillingham corridor – i.e., carve out more lanes from the adjacent properties.
This new plan – apparently the work of one “railway system designer and consultant” in New Jersey – truly is an eleventh-hour idea that is coming in close to midnight. Groundbreaking could happen in three months on our system, which has been planned, vetted and polished by hundreds of professionals here and elsewhere.
Whatever you buy today, consciously ask yourself, “Is this what I need to get the job done?” If you can ask that for yourself and your family, we all can do the same for the biggest purchase we’ve ever made.
If the answer is no, we definitely need to take a pass.