Friday, December 9, 2011

Giving ‘The Tampa Look’ a Second Look; Is This What Environmentalists Say Is Better than Rail?

Some believe Tampa's elevated highway scheme is right for Honolulu
How much do Honolulu residents really know about the so-called “flyover” option that some say would be preferable to Honolulu rail? We admit to not spending much time on it until yesterday, when we realized highway proponent Panos Prevedouros is still pushing something like the Tampa Reversible Elevated Lanes toll road for Honolulu as an option to rail.

Dr. Prevedouros mentions the Tampa REL in his most recent essay (linked at Yes2Rail yesterday) , and perennial anti-railer Cliff Slater has been praising it for years at his website. We’re posting several photos of Tampa’s new look with REL.

Opponents of Honolulu’s rail system usually congregate their resistance around rail’s elevated configuration. Before they gravitate to the Prevedouros-Slater option, let them look upon Tampa’s high-visual-impact solution.
The REL is three lanes wide, plus an emergency safety shoulder lane and railings on both sides. The highway is 14 miles long, but length isn’t the issue here in Honolulu. Width is a better gauge of how an overhead highway would be received on this island. The Tampa elevated highway is approximately 60 feet wide, or twice the width of Honolulu rail’s guideway.
What strikes us about the photos we’re posting today – and even in the graphic at the bottom of this post that was lifted from Mr. Slater’s website – is the absence of traffic on the surface highway. The combined carrying capacity for the elevated and surface lanes far exceeded their daytime use when these photos were taken. Might Tampa have been better advised to add three lanes at ground level and avoid the visual impact?

We won’t second-guess Tampa on its decision, but it’s worth noting that the city has a distinguishing characteristic that made its car-based solution logical for Tampa: It’s on the mainland. That city’s residents use their vehicles in ways Oahu residents never do. Tampans (Tampanians?) can climb into their cars and drive to Miami, New York or San Francisco if the spirit moves them; their cars can transport them thousands of miles in a single trip. Not so for Oahu residents, and therefore, a more logical option than building more highways on an island is to create a transit system that's fast, frequent, reliable and safe – all of that because it’s elevated.

The REL works for Tampa, and that’s great, but try as they might, Messrs. Prevedouros and Slater can’t make a solid case for building an elevated highway in Honolulu. If environmentalists want to avoid the hypocrite label, they’ll have to oppose that “solution” here, too – and maybe, just maybe, reconsider their knee-jerk opposition to elevated rail, which will be a fraction as tall as the high-rise buildings currently being planned for Kakaako.

One More Thing
A minor point but one worth mentioning nevertheless: The Tampa REL uses an automated toll system that allows vehicles to enter the lanes without stopping to take a ticket or pay a toll. It’s a modern system that uses modern equipment – like the cameras shown at right. Remember how well cameras pointed at cars went over on Oahu a few years ago when they were used to catch speeders? Based on the “anti-surveillance” mentality that seems alive and well here, we have to believe there'd be opposition to their use, too. Call it a hunch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pano's toll proposal arguments are so easy to refute. They even contradict themselves at times.

1) If rail went by the convention center, security for something like APEC can still be applied. Trains can merely skip the station for security.

2) Panos points to Houston's light rail as being out of service due to Ike yet as a professor, fails to see that Houston is at surface grade and affected by debris and flooding while our proposed system is elevated. Infact, he goes on to tout the tollway as elevated, free from debris and flooding. How does that double standard work? Better yet, how's that whole visual blight logic work as well?

3) Amount of BTUs used to build the rail system. So Panos somehow believes building the tollway involves no energy at all? Seriously, why is he still a professor at UH? It makes the whole university look bad when anyone with common sense can see this argument is flawed.

4) Has he considered the amount of energy needed to process rare earth metals to build the hyrids that he touts? Since we are looking at energy to build the system, hybrids are not green at all.