Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Review: Lingle Backs Rail System that Would Be Hazardous to People & Vehicles, Has Learned Nothing about Safety in Past 2 Years; Plus: We Need > 20 Words on Candidate's BRT

“Maybe the most charitable thing to say about the Governor’s rail-related comments…is that she’s too distracted by other issues to fully understand the project.”
That’s what Yes2Rail posted on April 2, 2010 following Linda Lingle’s appearance in the Insights PBS Hawaii public television show after she supported building some or all of the Honolulu rail project at ground level.

The most charitable thing to say about Ms. Lingle’s views on rail today is that she hasn’t changed them over the past two years. Despite at-grade rail’s significant safety issues, Ms. Lingle’s rail views are locked in concrete.

We’ll direct the same the same question to the former governor as we did in 2010: Don’t the positive attributes of elevated rail – fast, frequent, reliable and safe – matter?

Ms. Lingle still believes at-grade rail is superior to the city’s current elevated plan. After filing paperwork on Thursday to run for the United State Senate, she told KHON2:

“I wish I could support (rail) but I can’t support it the way it’s configured now…. I wouldn’t be any different in wanting to get (federal funds for rail) to Hawaii. I’d just want to get them for a reconfigured project, one that took into account how it comes into the Honolulu area.”

That’s code for “I support at-grade rail.” Another translation: “I want to kill rail, because once the plan deviates from what the Federal Transit Administration already has approved, rail will be dead.”

Ignoring the Evidence
The only explanation that makes sense to us when politicians prefer at-grade rail in Honolulu is that they’re politically motivated – an unsurprising assessment. The evidence that at-grade rail advocates ignore is the potential lethal hazard at-grade rail would be in dense and congested downtown Honolulu.

The evidence is displayed every day here at Yes2Rail in our right-hand column – evidence that at-grade rail transit trains demolish, hurt and kill. It happens in Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Houston, Denver, Sacramento and in every other city that builds a rail transit system at ground level. It would happen here, too.

What She Supports
Ms. Lingle has allied herself with the American Institute of Architects, Honolulu Chapter in promoting at-grade rail. She sponsored a forum in the State Capitol in 2010 at which several AIA members professed their support for rail transit – not just the city’s elevated version.

They urged that a dual-mode transit system be built here – elevated perhaps west of downtown but at-grade through the heart of downtown Honolulu. The above graphic is on AIA Honolulu’s Rail Issue page at the chapter’s website.

Yes2Rail took issue with this graphic the same month as Ms. Lingle’s AIA forum, but let’s review those observations, as we listed them on January 15, 2010:
• The first point is obvious; the train is at ground level, as would be cars and trucks crossing its path heading makai at this intersection of Maunakea and Hotel streets. Car-train interaction in Phoenix, AZ has produced an average of one accident per week for the city’s at-grade trains in their first year of operation.
The train is just feet from Hotel Street pedestrians, suggesting a significant safety hazard.
At-grade trains must travel slowly through crowded urban neighborhoods like this one, unlike overhead trains that are completely unaffected by surface congestion and hazards.
The train shares Hotel Street with TheBus, resulting inevitably in schedule conflicts and delays.
Unlike automated elevated systems, at-grade trains require drivers. Humans at the controls means greater accident risk, and time between trains must be at least twice as long as between elevated trains. (Today’s additional comment: Operations costs increase when drivers are at the controls.)
You have to look closely, but this is a short two-car train – much shorter than elevated trains. At-grade vehicles in Honolulu couldn't extend beyond the ends of Chinatown's short city blocks. This requirement significantly lowers the number of commuters transported on each train and therefore by the entire system.
Unless the architects think their trains will be powered from beneath street level somehow, trains will require overhead wires to supply electricity. Those lines are absent from this depiction.
And finally:
The artist has airbrushed out the pedestrian crosswalk across Hotel Street at this intersection; the existing crosswalk is easily seen in a photo taken from Google Maps (below). Pedestrians don’t just walk along Hotel Street but across it, too. Honolulu already has too many pedestrian accidents and deaths; adding trains every few minutes to congested neighborhoods would increase pedestrians' risk – especially among the elderly.

It Bears Repeating
Any politician who supports at-grade rail transit through Honolulu’s dense downtown neighborhoods, including Chinatown, has rejected safety as an issue rail in favor of political expediency.

Each time Ms. Lingle and other at-grade advocates provide a soothing description of what they want built here, think about the hazard at-grade rail would pose to Chinatown’s elderly population, to children, to inattentive drivers and anyone else who might find themselves unexpectedly in a train’s path.

It surely would happen here, just as it does elsewhere, but it would be impossible for any of those scenarios to occur with elevated rail – the only way to provide fast, frequent, reliable and SAFE rail transit through our city.

20 Words or Less
It’s worth repeating this, too: Ben Cayetano provided exactly 20 words of “detail” about his proposed bus rapid transit plan during Wednesday night’s mayoral debate.  He has steadfastly refused to disclose his BRT plan, which he told Civil Beat in March he’d release by mid-April.

It’s obvious that Mr. Cayetano is following the dictates in the Political Candidate’s Bible: “When you’re ahead in a race (or think you are), don’t give the opposition anything with which to tear you down.”

Civil Beat reported yesterday that Mr. Cayetano is skipping a previously scheduled debate among the three mayoral candidates this coming Tuesday, and if that’s true, we’re unlikely to learn anything else about his BRT plan in the days ahead.

Mr. Cayetano vows to kill rail if elected, so the electorate deserves to know what his alternative is. Stringing a couple hundred 20-word sound bites together to describe his BRT plan won’t cut it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lingle's Superferry sank and she can't bear to see anyone else succeed. Same thing with Ben. Not much to show for two terms, so nobody else should get anything done either. Hawaii politics is a bunch of kids in a sandbox.