We’re staying in Portland today to review the city’s light-rail safety record. Portland’s MAX system has attracted a following in Honolulu despite its rather alarming death statistics.
Portland residents are concerned about safety. A mother whose son was killed when hit by a MAX train while he was on his bicycle in a crosswalk near a station is pushing for a citizen safety review board.
The Portland Tribune carried a story this summer comparing the safety records of the heavy-rail WES commuter system with the MAX light-rail system. We’ll quote a few paragraphs:
Darla Sturdy, whose son was killed in 2003, is especially concerned about improving safety near MAX stations. She hopes her work will prevent others from going through the grief of losing a loved one.
For their part, MAX officials are stuck with trying to make the at-grade system that’s been built safer than its track record would suggest.
“The individual has some responsibility to pay attention to their environment,” said a spokesperson. “We try to do everything we can to alert them. That’s why we added the audible (alert and) the light, trying to get people to pay attention. It’s really just to remind them they’re near the tracks – pay attention, took both ways.”
We’re not picking on Portland’s MAX, but facts are facts. At-grade rail systems are inherently more dangerous than elevated systems for the obvious reason they drive trains through busy urban areas where people walk, bike, drive, skateboard and stumble across their tracks. We can’t imagine a more congested urban area in Portland or anywhere else than Honolulu’s Chinatown, where local architects want an at-grade system to run in both directions along Hotel Street. Need we say more?
Honolulu’s elevated system will be immeasurably safer than at-grade transit. Actually, there is one measure of the difference, and that measure is the lives that won’t be lost and the lives that won’t forever be changed by serious injury from colliding with an at-grade train.
Pedestrians, cars, trucks, buses, bicycles and skateboarders do collide with at-grade trains. That simply won’t happen when our city builds Honolulu rail -- elevated.