Saturday, October 2, 2010

Some Things Bear Repeating – Especially Now

The date reminds us that we’re in the season when people come and people go. One month from today we’ll know who will step into the shoes of the newly departed.

All this coming and going reminds us that some things indeed are constants, so for all the candidates who’ll be elected and whose responsibilities will touch the Honolulu rail project, here’s one of those constants:

Only grade-separated transit provides traffic-free travel through the community.

That’s the big payoff of Honolulu rail, because by avoiding all surface traffic, elevated rail will be fast, frequent, reliable and safe. At-grade transit – which some continue to tout as an alternative to elevated rail -- wouldn’t be any of that.

One photograph among the many we’ve seen in the past year makes the point better than anything written here. It was taken from a traffic helicopter in Phoenix 10 months ago today and shows the aftermath of another train-vehicle accident in the city.

Phoenix’s new transit system recorded 52 accidents in its first year of operation. As Yes2Rail noted last month, accidents and lawsuits inevitably would result from building an at-grade transit system here.

Accident-prone transit isn’t attractive to potential riders because of the delays, so an at-grade system wouldn’t be as successful as elevated. It wouldn’t be as fast because trains would be in the mix of surface traffic, slowing and stopping at cross streets for vehicles and pedestrians.

At-grade trains with drivers couldn’t be scheduled as frequently as computer-controlled elevated trains. The list of at-grade negatives goes on, including higher numbers of property acquisitions, more ground disturbance due to the requirement to dig a 20-mile trench, and so on.

One thing all office-holders soon come to understand: The quick-and-easy “solution” often turns out to be no solution at all. Let's hope they keep that in mind when they're asked to evaluate elevated vs at-grade transit.

Update: Lingle acknowledges isles' economic rebound: As we noted yesterday, Hawaii's economy is doing quite well, a point the Governor highlighted yesterday. A robust economy presumably will be taken into account in her review of the rail FEIS.

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