But let’s not forget why Honolulu’s elevated system is the only way to accomplish the project’s goals. Here’s a quick review of those goals, which are listed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, paragraph 1.9, table 1-4:
Improve Transportation Equity
Starting with this goal for a change feels right because it confronts head-on the argument that Honolulu needs more highways (HOT lanes, managed lanes, toll roads, whatever you want to call them) instead of rail transit. The system’s route will serve Oahu’s current and future densely populated communities in the southern urban corridor. All income and age categories will benefit from rail, unlike highways and the vehicles that use them. Never forget, as rail opponent Cliff Slater reminds us in one of his comments to Civil Beat, the online subscription news service, "...Managed Lane toll prices are varied to control demand...." In other words, only those who can afford to pay the toll use those lanes. There's no transportation equity in that equation.
Improve Corridor Mobility
Honolulu has lost true mobility – the ability to travel through the corridor unimpeded by traffic congestion with an expectation of arriving at one’s destination at a predictable time. Only grade-separated transit can do that; bumper-to-bumper, slow-crawl traffic is now a twice-daily ordeal for tens of thousands of commuters. Elevated rail will avoid that congestion completely for more than 100,000 daily riders, and by reducing the number of vehicles in the corridor, those who don’t use rail also will benefit from reduced hours of delay on our roads.
Improve Travel Reliability
The elevated rail system will be in an exclusive right-of-way, unaffected by surface congestion and accident-caused delays. Trains will arrive every 3 minutes during the morning and afternoon rush hour, every 6 minutes mid-day and every 10 minutes from 8 pm to midnight. Their reliability will be nearly 100 percent, since trains will be driverless, with computers controlling their on-time arrivals and departures. At-grade trains require drivers, and that requirement demands more time and distance between trains. Passengers will know precisely what time they will arrive at their destination as they board their train at the start of their trip. That’s something no car or bus commuter can do today.
Improve Planned Development Access
Transit-oriented development will guide Honolulu’s growth for decades to come, and the rail system will be the catalyst for that development. Residential and commercial development will be planned in areas within walking distance of rail stations. Because rail travel will be attractive, residents will be attracted to live in communities near the system’s stations.
The key, of course, is elevated rail’s ability to deliver fast, frequent, reliable and safe service. At-grade rail can’t compete with grade-separated transit in those measurable categories for reasons Yes2Rail has mentioned repeatedly. We’ll end today’s post with a link to video from Houston that makes the safety and reliability arguments better than any words can. The video from inside a Houston bus shows the bus’s collision with a Houston at-grade train when the bus ran a red light.