Monday, September 27, 2010

Inquiring Minds Want To Know about Rail System

We love to receive comments below Yes2Rail posts; they show somebody’s reading this stuff. The best ones illuminate the issues, like the one below Saturday’s post.

“Anonymous” agreed with our conclusion that anti-railers are way over the edge in exaggerating the alleged difficulties in using multi-modal transportation – i.e., connecting to Honolulu rail with short bus trips at the end of the rail segments. He/she wrote that improved bus service, not reduced, will help make rail a success.

Other questions have shown up at Civil Beat, the online subscription news outlet here. Here are a few with answers (with typos and grammar cleaned up):

1. Will I be able to take my bicycle on the rail?
A: Yes, and surfers will travel with their boards, too.

2. I keep hearing this “rail is fast” argument. The last time I saw there were 33 (or something) proposed stops on a 20-mile stretch of track. That works out to about 1 stop every ¾ of a mile. From riding the bus, I know EVERY STOP is used. How is that going to be faster than the bus? (The writer then lists time calculations with estimates for how long the trains will stop in the stations – up to one minute, he says – that are far too long.)
A: There are 21 stations on the 20-mile route, so the maximum number of stops on any trip would be 20. Based on the operations of rail systems around the world, the “dwell time” – the period trains are stopped in the stations – will be much closer to 15 seconds or less. Trains will travel 55 mph or more between stations, so the end-to-end trip will take 42 minutes, including station dwell times. Bus travel even with express buses over a comparable length takes longer due to the inevitability of mixing buses in with other traffic.

3. What are the hours of operation?
A: The system will operate 20 hours each day – 4 am to midnight. Train frequency during morning and afternoon rush hours will be 3 minutes. Between 9 am and 3 pm trains will arrive every 6 minutes, and the interval from 8 pm to midnight will be 10 minutes.

4. Will I be able to bring luggage or multiple shopping bags on it?
A: Yes. The route includes a station at Honolulu International Airport and stations near the Pearlridge and Ala Moana shopping centers and other commerce. Luggage and shopping bags will be allowed.

5. Are there bathrooms? And will they be open the entire time the rail operates? Or will people be peeing over the side of the elevated platforms?
A: We assume the questioner knows the answers – at least, to the last one. The current plan is to have controlled-access at the stations – i.e., a station attendant with a key. Transit systems around the nation advise against having constant and uncontrolled bathroom access, since experience shows it fosters unsavory consequences. There will be no bathrooms on the trains, just as TheBus has no such facility. Train trips will be even faster than bus travel over similar lengths, and bus passengers have learned to schedule their bathroom breaks to account for their travel time.

6. How much will the ticket cost to ride? Is that for the bus and rail, or do I need a separate bus pass?
A: The bus fare of the future will determine the cost to ride the train. Only one ticket or pass will be used; what you pay or use to take a bus to the rail station will also cover the cost of the train trip and a possible bus connection at the end of the rail segment.

7. How many wheelchairs will fit in each train car?
A: Each vehicle will have space for baggage and at least two wheelchairs, four small-to-medium sized surfboards and three bicycles. Per requirements, "special attention shall be given to provision of adequate wheelchair turning space for access to these spaces."

8. If an emergency stop is required or happens (immediate, can’t make it to the station), is there a walkway along the side of the rail tracks? Can a wheelchair fit? How are people evacuated?
A: Quoting from the rail Final Environmental Impact Statement (Section 2.5.2): “With a (prolonged) outage, the operations center will direct passengers to exit the trains via a lighted emergency walkway to the nearest station. For those unable to exit rail cars, help will be provided by emergency responders and transit staff.”

9. If an emergency stop is required, is there any way to get the car out of the way? Air lifted out? Towed out?
A: The system is designed to allow a stalled vehicle to be towed out of the way so other trains can continue their operations.

The questioner had other questions but added “that’s enough for now.” We’re pleased to see questions on rail and will do our part in answering them – and amplifying on our answers, if necessary – when they’re asked.

No comments: