Monday, July 2, 2012

In Case You Missed It, Honolulu’s Only Daily Newspaper Endorses City’s Rail Project – Again, Plus: Why At-Grade Rail Transit Is a Non-Starter

Some Sunday newspapers may still be in their rain-resistant wrappers, so a review of the rail-related content is in order.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reacted editorially (subscription) with strong approval to the rail project’s submission of a Full Funding Grant Agreement to the Federal Transit Administration.

When approved by the FTA, the FFGA will trigger the release of $1.55 billion in federal funds for Honolulu’s elevated 20-mile line.  The use of “when” is appropriate, according to Dan Grabauskas, CEO of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation. The FFGA’s approval doesn’t appear to be an iffy proposition.

“The US Congress has never reneged, never ever not delivered on a Full Funding Grant Agreement ever period,” Mr. Grabauskas said in a press conference. “I’ll even go a step further and say I don’t know of any project that has gotten this far to actually have the FTA say ‘submit these documents’ that didn’t get the award either.”

The submission last week came less than two months before the August primary election that pits two major pro-rail candidates against one who vows to kill the rail project if elected. If none of the three receives a majority of votes cast, the top two will run off in the November General Election.

“Backing away at this point would not only derail the project but endanger future federal help with any other major transportation project in Hawaii,” the editorial concluded. It’s a timely warning; 2012 is the 20th anniversary of the City Council vote that doomed the Fasi Administration’s grade-separated transit project.

More Seats, Fare Gates
The other rail-related content yesterday (subscription required for this, too) was reporter Kevin Dayton’s story on changes Mr. Grabauskas intends to make to improve both riding comfort and the project’s financial viability.

“If I do my job right, I’m the No. 1 customer advocate in the organization,” he told the Star-Advertiser's editorial board late last week. Some Oahu residents have objected to the announced seating configuration in the train's cars Honolulu has ordered from Ansaldo that would provide more standing than sitting room.

Mr. Grabauskas also said he’s asked contractors for plans to install fare gates in the system’s 21 stations, which would reverse the city’s plan to use an honor system for riders.

“I happen to be a strong advocate for a gated system,” he said. “I think you’ll see around the country that non-gated systems are gating because of the fact of the fare leakage. If there’s a return on investment – I mean strictly business – on any investment in a system, it’s fare gates.”

Such a system would remove any doubt among passengers about whether that other guy or gal has paid to ride the train, too, he said.

At-Grade Rail?
With Independence Day only a couple days away, we looked back a year to see what Yes2Rail might have posted about rail’s “freedom from traffic congestion” message last year. We didn’t find that content, but we think the July 4, 2011 post deserves another look.

Some people are showing a new-found interest in at-grade rail transit for Honolulu – probably because it wouldn’t be elevated like the system the city is building.  The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects says it favors rail transit, just not this project, and it commissioned graphics to show what an at-grade train might look like running along Hotel Street in downtown Honolulu.

Here’s one of those images:
Our Independence Day post last year compared that image with what that exact location on Hotel Street actually looks like using a photo from Google’s Street View feature:
You’re invited to read that July 4th post for its observations on why the AIA’s own graphic reveals at-grade rail's major shortcomings. The stand-out observation is that the AIA air-brushed away the pedestrian crossing between the mauka and makai sides of Hotel Street – thereby disguising the danger at-grade rail poses to pedestrians.

Last July's post covered at-grade's significant negatives as revealed in the AIA graphic, including safety. All those photographs in Yes2Rail's right-hand column illustrate the safety problem, and it can’t be air-brushed away.

1 comment:

Roy Kamisato said...

The StarAdvertiser made it clear. If a new Mayor is able to cancel the rail project don't expect Federal funding for future projects BRT, Hot Lanes, at Grade rail included. This will mean rail won't be built for another twenty years. Deja vu all over again?