Monday, December 8, 2008

Some Options for Architects Who Dislike Traditional Elevated Rail

The architects’ society, AIA Honolulu, drafted comments on the rail DEIS. Basically they are in favor of the rail concept but they do not want elevated rail. To quote their December 4, 2008 draft letter to the City: “In comparison with elevated systems, at grade systems would require less taxpayer funding and offer greater flexibility and affordability in planning for future extensions.”

On Oahu, at grade rail will be cheaper in terms of guideway costs, and it will have a much lower aesthetic impact, but its requirements for condemnation and roadway congestion will both skyrocket. Condemnation would be extensive (and very expensive) because at grade space must be found for the wide turns that trains make and for 20+ stations. Roadway lanes will be lost to light rail; not only one lane per direction, but also adjacent lanes to install stations. For example, an at-grade light rail installation between downtown and the UH will practically take all of Beretania Street and maybe allow for one lane left for local access and deliveries. Lane-taking in Honolulu, one of the most lane starved cities in the nation, is not rational. Overall AIA’s recommendation for at grade rail is not a practical one.

Would a light version of the Japanese roof-mounted monorail make better sense?

This is the Ofuna Enoshima monorail. The guideway and posts of this system can be made slimmer by designing them for smaller and lighter trains, so the visual impact when a train is absent is small. But of course its stations would still be big and obtrusive. Such a system was not presented or evaluated in the DEIS.

Another fixed guideway option is the PPT, or personal public transit, but all of them are experimental or drawing board concepts. There are several concepts but the SkyTran concept for personalized magnetic levitation (Maglev) rapid transit ( is exciting and All American. Its light structure makes it much more suitable for beautiful Honolulu.

If Honolulu were to develop 12 miles of HOT lanes now to solve its leeward Oahu congestion issues, in 20 years some of the PPT could be market ready and they have the potential to be fast, quiet, convenient and inexpensive. With HOT lanes, underpasses, smart traffic lights and PPT, Honolulu in 2030 would be an international transportation technology capital. This would be accomplished at a locally affordable cost and with minimal impact to aesthetics, cultural and historical sites.

No comments: