Today’s issue is safety, which we’ve previously noted has been ignored by the AIA. We’ll pick up with host Dan Boylan reading a question sent in by a viewer:
Boylan: “Commaaina wants to know via Twitter, Peter: 'The AIA ignores the poor safety of at-grade systems. Phoenix had 52 accidents in its first year. It mustn’t be built here.'”
Upon Closer Examination
He completely avoids the obvious thrust of the at-grade safety issue and then obfuscates it by protesting that “there have been 10 accidental deaths in Vancouver….” His source is Honolulu Advertiser reporter Sean Hao, whose inaccurate reporting on rail and selective use of quotes has been noted in this blog.
We’ve made our own inquiries about Vancouver’s safety record. Doug Kelsey, president and chief executive officer of British Columbia Rapid Transit Company, Ltd., which operates and maintains the Vancouver SkyTrain, says there have been “zero accidents caused by the technology” on the system.
Kelsey says SkyTrain has learned from the few regrettable incidents on its system and installed an intrusion system that triggers an alarm when it detects someone falling off the platform. (SkyTrain was recognized late last year as “Best Organization” at the Fifth Annual Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Public Safety – British Columbia’s highest safety honor.”)
What also comes through is that Vancouver's accidents have been "personal" in nature and not collisions, which is the major issue with at-grade transit. As City Transportation Services Director Wayne Yoshioka said at a January press conference:
Perhaps the AIA’s representative thinks he’s doing his organization’s bidding well by sidestepping the obvious fact that no cars, no trucks and no buses have crashed with SkyTrain, but it’s even more obvious that he’s selling something that’s not true.
At-grade transit systems are much more prone to accidents than grade-separated systems. By rolling at-grade and elevated into the same broad “rail” category, Vincent blatantly misled the viewing public during last week’s program.
And that unfortunately characterizes the AIA’s campaign for at-grade rail here. As noted in yesterday’s post, the AIA pooh-poohed the time difference between an elevated system’s speed and that of a relatively slow at-grade experience.
But there is absolutely no way a train operating on the ground and traveling on this map’s red route can move through the heart of Honolulu at anything close to the speed of an elevated train using the blue route on the map. There’s just isn’t.
The AIA would do us a public service by ending its semantic tricks about the speed, safety, reliability and capacity of its proposed at-grade train. One small group of architects apparently holds aesthetics above all other considerations. (See our January 29 post for the AIA’s internal poll’s remarkable results showing that elevated actually received more support from the AIA’s membership than at-grade!)
The rest of us surely want safety to rank much higher on the priority scale than how the rail system “looks.”