Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Here’s a Video That’s a Must-View for Everyone in Honolulu’s Elevated versus At-Grade Rail Debate

Leaping ahead to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day next Monday – the day selected by the Governor’s office to showcase the transit ideas of a group of architects – we can confidently predict these non-experts on transit issues will promote building all or part of Honolulu’s rail system at ground level.

We’ve seen their PowerPoint show, heard their speeches, read their newspaper ads. These designers of high-rise towers that have walled off the ocean from many parts of Honolulu object to an elevated guideway running through our city at a height of 30 feet.

Spotlighting the Blind Spot

Let’s leave that obvious disconnect aside and focus on something infinitely more important than aesthetics, no matter how taken some architects seem to be with aesthetics. Safety is that more important issue. If Honolulu is going to invest this much in a modern transit system, it must be safe to ride and not be a hazard to the rest of the community.

The video mentioned in the above headline can be found at the website of a Phoenix, Arizona television station. (Update: the video is no longer featured at this station's website; you might find it with a search.) You absolutely positively must watch it, and when you do, it will be obvious that at-grade transit poses serious safety issues that we just don’t need to deal with in Honolulu.

The architects shy away from this issue. At least, we’ve never heard them address it, and they probably won’t on Monday unless pressed to do so by the audience. Other issues that might be pressed upon them are the relative unreliability of at-grade compared to elevated transit, as well as the slower speeds and greater traffic disruption at-grade rail would experience.

What Do Architects Want?

A page one story in the morning Advertiser notes that the local AIA chapter is not united in opposing elevated rail. A dozen architects with personal experience and appreciation for the project held a press conference yesterday to support an entirely elevated system.

The funny thing about the AIA chapter’s position is that it doesn't accurately reflect the results of a survey it took among its membership. You really need to look closely at that survey, as well.

More respondents actually favored an elevated guideway than an at-grade system! And two-thirds of the respondents said they favor either an elevated or below grade guideway. That is an amazing result in light of the AIA leadership’s insistence that at-grade transit is the way to go.

Monday’s event will be heavily covered in the news media, and that’s good. The more light directed at this issue – including the AIA survey – the better off Honolulu will be.

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