Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When Safety Is Crucial, Think Elevated Rail

We’re at risk of becoming a bore on the subject of rail safety by mentioning it so often, but when you get right down to it, what could be more important? We’ll put safety at the top of the list, and we have to believe our fellow citizens do, too.

That’s why we continue to post here about the built-in safety of Honolulu’s elevated rail system, which is scheduled to break ground late this year. By being above vehicular and pedestrian traffic, Honolulu’s trains won’t “interact” with cars, trucks, buses and people.

Phoenix’s METRO light rail has been operating since December and is averaging five collisions a month, which has prompted the operators to launch a Light Rail Safety campaign called Stay Aware, Stay Safe. Signs posted along the 20-mile route (at left) remind drivers of the ever-present danger of a collision, and the system’s website carries this cautionary warning:

"At any time of the day or night, you can find yourself near an operating light rail vehicle or a METRO train consisting of two or three vehicles connected together. Each METRO vehicle is 90 feet long and weighs more than 100,000 pounds. Now is the time to learn and practice the rules of light rail safety."

Honolulu’s elevated system will require no such warnings, because its trains won’t intersect with a single street, crosswalk, bike path or highway, unlike the proposal being circulated around town for at-grade transit.

“Safety is our most important product” is a shop-worn marketing phrase, but it’s also an assertion that will distinguish Honolulu’s future rail system.


Rod Herr said...

I find the debate over an "at-grade" verses an "elevated" rail system very interesting. As I have read the different points of view each side has presented very good arguments to support their side of issue. But, all the talk and good intentions really boil down to one issue, MONEY! The up-front costs of building either system should not be the issue. Yes there are budget concerns that each system would be able to bring forward to prove the case; just don't let the up-front dollars cloud the real costs of building at-grade.
After almost 36 years of being in the rail road/ rail transit business I can say without a doubt an elevated/ segregated right of way would be a faster and safer system to serve the people of Honolulu, far better than at-grade. Ask the proponents of the at-grade system if they will come out for the accident investigations, they will happen, and help the coroner and the police clean up an accident and then make a determination of how someone ended up being run over by a train or how a car, truck, bus or maybe a school bus just happened to get hit at a road crossing. I don’t mean to be gruesome, but, these are some of the real continuous costs of an at-grade system. I have been on those investigations; they have a long term impact!
The safety factor of a segregated right of way to the general public cannot be compared and should be strong enough to make the at-grade a non-issue!
You will find that rail is the best way to go!!!!!!!!!!!

Rod Herr

Doug Carlson said...

Thanks for your comment, Rod. Once again, the "experience factor" makes the case best.