Phoenix built its 20-mile light-rail transit system at ground level, and within a few months residents were asking why there were so many accidents. The system recorded 52 of them in its first 52 weeks.
A search of Google for “Phoenix train accident” returns dozens of hits, including a page at azcentral.com’s website that’s devoted entirely to light-rail news, including numerous crashes.
Again, the straight-forward answer to the residents’ question is that Phoenix’s trains, cars, trucks and buses all operate at ground level – and unfortunately, so do pedestrians on occasion. Trains and vehicles collide in intersections and crossings because of human error after drivers ignore red lights and signage that should prevent crashes.
But that’s the problem with at-grade transit systems, isn’t it? They practically invite accidents because humans are error-prone, ignore signage, text while they drive, zone out mentally or otherwise do the wrong thing around at-grade trains.
“I just ran over there, and I looked at him. I tried to get him out, but he was really, his muscles were contracting, so it was pretty difficult. I got him out and I set him down on the floor, on the road, and I just held his head up and put him to the side to make sure he was OK."
“He wasn’t looking, and he got hit by the train. It hit him really bad, it threw him a couple feet away from it, and then it caught up to him and kinda dragged him to the side and under the train.”
The point of highlighting accidents involving at-grade transit systems, of course, is that Honolulu’s elevated rail will experience none of these crashes, but that doesn’t stop rail opponents from suggesting view planes are more important than safety.
Our view: Proponents of at-grade rail transit, including political office-seekers, must address at-grade rail’s safety record and why they believe it would acceptable to introduce that unnecessary hazard into our community. And if reporters won’t do it, citizens should.
The study found that Honolulu was the densest metropolitan area in the United States. The study made a point of noting Honolulu’s unique geography that contributes to the city’s density:
“Honolulu, of course, is atypically land-constrained for U.S. metropolitan areas because it is located on an island in the Pacific Ocean.” Elsewhere in a summary of the study, Brookings wrote:
Safety deserves to be #1 in the list of considerations about the rail transit system that will serve Honolulu’s urban core communities. The people’s choice to build an elevated rail guideway above the perils of surface traffic was the right one. Let the office-seekers respond to that!
This post has been added to our "aggregation" site under the Elevated vs At-Grade heading.