The architects had criticized the Honolulu rail project and pushed their own version of rail – at-grade transit, which from all appearances has attracted the Governor’s attention. If the Governor “believes (the architects) have some valid concerns that we need to look into,” according to an aide, it’s time to closely examine the AIA’s statements at the hearing. We call the City rail project’s assessment of those statements:
AIA Myths Meet the Truth
• Myth 1—Building 10 miles of Honolulu’s rail system at-grade would save $1.8 billion.
The Truth: It’s highly unlikely that could be the case, since the AIA didn’t figure in the considerable costs of at-grade transit, such as relocating underground utility lines that would be dug up, additional right-of-way acquisitions and the cost of delaying construction. The Mayor says that delay could add an additional $200 million a year. Totally ignored by the AIA are at-grade’s impact costs on the community – safety hazards for vehicles and pedestrians and the inevitable congestion increases due to dedicating traffic lanes to rail.
• Myth 2—Operating costs are lower for at-grade rail.
The Truth: Not so. At-grade rail requires more trains because they operate at slower speeds. What’s more, they can’t be automated since they’d be in the mix of traffic, so each train would require a driver. Do that on all trains 20 hours a day and you jack up operating costs big time. The AIA’s “transit experts” showed how little they really know about transit on this myth alone!
• Myth 3—At-grade trains are safer.
The Truth: This one is a real whopper, and something elementary school children can figure out. Put trains on the ground, run them through intersections, over crosswalks and along pedestrian sidewalks and the inevitable result is an accident. Make that plural; Phoenix’s new at-grade system racked up a crash a week in its first year of operation. Grade-separated transit is the “gold standard” of public transportation (Honolulu’s will be elevated) for the obvious reason trains have their own right of way completely separated from traffic.
And so it goes with the myths promulgated by local architects who want you to believe they’re transit experts, too. We’ll cover more of their myths in the days to come.