Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rail’s All-Important Goal – Improved Reliability

With so many new people in key government positions on Oahu, the times indeed are a-changin’, as Bob Dylan observed several decades ago. We’re taking pains to note early in 2011, however, that Honolulu rail’s goals are unchanged and as important as ever.

Tuesday’s post highlighted the mobility restoration goal, and today we’re focusing on #2 in the final environmental impact statement list – to improve corridor travel reliability. We’ve banged away at the reliability issue for as long as Yes2Rail has been on the ‘net, since it’s so easily appreciated by commuters who’ve lost it.

The significant and obvious benefit of grade-separated transit – elevated rail in Honolulu – is that it’s completely immune to traffic congestion on highways and local streets. Subways and elevated systems run on timetables that are highly reliable, unlike surface transit modes.

Riders know with a high degree of certainty exactly when their train will arrive at every station on the route, and that means they can accurately predict their destination's arrival time before they even depart.

Travel that requires mingling with surface traffic does not allow users to make such a prediction; that includes at-grade rail, HOT lanes, buses, taxis and of course, the privately-owned vehicle. Only grade-separated transit does, and that’s why goal #2 is second to none. Here’s how it’s described in rail’s FEIS:

As roadways become more congested, they become more susceptible to substantial delays caused by such incidents as traffic accidents or heavy rain. Even a single driver unexpectedly braking can have a ripple effect that delays hundreds of cars. Because of the operating conditions in the study corridor, current travel times are not reliable for either transit or automobile trips. Because TheBus primarily operates in mixed traffic, transit users experience the same level of travel time uncertainty as automobile users. To arrive at their destination on time, travelers must allow extra time in their schedules to account for the uncertainty of travel time. During the a.m. peak period, more than one-third of bus service is more than five minutes late. This lack of predictability is inefficient and results in lost productivity or free time. A need exists to provide more reliable transit services (emphasis added).

No comments: