Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dissecting AIA Myths about Honolulu Rail Project

The dust that had settled after last week’s Governor Linda Lingle-sponsored AIA “hearing" in the State Capitol on rail transit was stirred up again yesterday with Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s assertion that the Governor opposes rail. (The Mayor's Tuesday press conference can be seen on YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2.)

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.

• Myth 4—At-grade rail is nearly as fast as elevated rail.
The Truth: Once again, myth meets common sense. Check out this map of downtown Honolulu showing the proposed at-grade route of the AIA’s New Jersey-based consultant (in red) and the City’s elevated train route (in blue). We’ve used it here before because it does such a good job destroying this “fast at-grade” myth. Imagine a train moving diamondhead on Hotel Street. It comes to Richards and makes a hard right, goes one block makai and hangs a left onto busy King Street. It continues on Kapiolani at the merge with King. On the return trip, it turns right at that merge onto Alapai Street, then left onto busy Beretania past the Capitol, then left onto Richards and right back onto Hotel. How in blazes can a train on that route slowed by vehicle and pedestrian traffic even come close to the same elapsed time as elevated trains traveling on the blue route? Answer: They can’t!

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the Mayor's videos. Lots of good information at the news conference that the "public" never gets to see! Good job!