Friday, October 29, 2010

Anti-Railer’s Latest Assumes We Can Be Duped

The one thing committed Honolulu rail supporters and rail opponents can agree on is that they’ll never agree. Their verbal barrages over this project likely will continue all the way to completion of the 20-mile line and beyond.

So it’s with that expectation we turn to part three of a series of anti-rail columns written by the University of Hawaii’s resident highway (not transit) expert. Like part one and part two, this one finds his preferred high-occupancy toll (HOT) roads far superior to rail, but part three is especially noteworthy for the tortured reasoning that allows the good professor to justify his conclusion.

We’re Not Stupid!

Yes2Rail readers are encouraged to read the professor’s piece, just as we encourage you to read the comments of Honolulu’s chief anti-railer. The conclusion we draw from these gentlemen’s remarks is that they think Honolulu residents are easily duped.

Take part three. The author reaches his desired conclusion that “rail systems are less safe than managed roads” only by including "suicides, rapes, drugs, pick-pocketing and other crime in stations and on elevators, escalators, walking and falls-inside-a-moving-train.” He says high-voltage third rails that deliver power to trains are “magnets for suicides.”

Conversely, he praises intelligent cruise control and other safety technologies built into a few luxury cars today and possibly into other models tomorrow and concludes that HOT lanes “are perfect for taking advantage of advanced safety systems and future improvements.” He writes that “a portion of motorists (comment: the portion that can afford the high tolls) and bus and vanpool passengers will be able to travel on a perfectly safe 10 mile segment of roadway.”

Can’t Go There

If we wanted to play such a dubious game, we could say people who drive on HOT lanes are at risk of being car-jacked at some point, unlike rail passengers.

We might suggest that solo HOT-lane users who suffer a heart attack while driving would have a greater risk of dieing than train riders traveling with other passengers who could summon help.

We could twist, bend, staple and mutilate common sense, too, but that would be playing the same dubious game. We’ll rely on the public to see the professor’s arguments for what they are – highly sanitized and hopeful attempts to deny the reality that train travel is inherently safer than highway travel.

We don’t claim to be an expert in these matters like the UH professor does, but we do know how to Google, and you probably do, too. We suggest you enter these words and see what comes up: “which is safer, highways or rail lines?” Here’s what we found:

“Riding a train is more than 23 times safer than traveling by car.” Source: Washington State Department of Transportation

Our conclusion: The only way the professor can portray HOT lanes as safer than rail is by including a rail passenger's every possible happenstance in the “safety” statistics and leaving the obvious potential for vehicle accidents out of his highway analysis.

That’s not only misleading; it assumes a high “dupability” quotient for Honolulu residents that's almost insulting.

Keep reading for more information on low crime rates for rail transit systems.

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