Thursday, October 21, 2010

National Performance Metrics Comparison of Honolulu’s Elevated Rail and HOT Lane Proposals. Goal 3 of 3: Safety

Let’s briefly analyze how 20 miles of rail with 21 stations and 10 miles of HOT lanes would score in an application in Honolulu based on three goals and six NTPP metrics that were presented in a previous blog.

In order to reach a bottom line, the best alternative for each goal will receive a score of 10 and the second best will receive a relative score between 0 and 10.

Note that these metrics address deeper goals and treat congestion as an outcome. For congestion relief alone HOT lanes would score a 10 and rail a 1.

In this last part we focus on NTPP goal 3 which is Safety. This goal has two metrics, fatalities and injuries per capita and per vehicle miles traveled or VMT. Brief descriptions of the compared RAIL and HOT Lanes alternatives are provided here.

Fatalities and Injuries per Capita

RAIL: Rail systems are commonly assumed to be very safe compared to “dangerous roads.” Far from it. When suicides, rapes, drugs, pick-pocketing and other crime in stations and elevator, escalator, walking, falls inside a moving train and other accidents are comprehensively accounted for, and weighted by the relatively small numbers of people rail serves compared to roads, then urban rail systems are less safe than managed roads. Note that high voltage third rail systems like the one planned for Honolulu are notorious for suicides, the statistics of which are always kept secret to discourage these events. (Score = 7)

HOT Lanes: The Attica Tollway in Athens received the International Road Federal award for safety in 2009 and the 10 miles of reversible elevated lanes (REL) of Tampa are practically accident free. In addition, automated lane keeping, intelligent cruise control and other safety technologies already built-into the luxury car market are increasingly being offered in mid-priced cars. Again, managed HOT lanes are perfect for taking advantage of advanced safety systems and future improvements. Unlike trains that are always in close contact with people, HOT lane traffic is never in close contact with pedestrians. (Score = 10)

Fatalities and Injuries per Vehicle Miles Traveled

RAIL: Honolulu rail is projected to move such a tiny proportion of Oahu’s trips (less than 3% of the daily trips) so its effect on improving safety will be tiny. (Score = 8)

HOT Lanes: While the lanes themselves will not carry more than 5% of Oahu’s daily trips, they will provide a substantial congestion relief to parallel roads including the H-1 Freeway thereby reducing rear-end accidents which are typical in congested conditions. A portion of motorists and bus and vanpool passengers will be able to travel on a perfectly safe 10 mile segment of roadway. (Score = 10)


Based on the Safety goal and its two metrics, HOT Lanes score 20 points and Elevated Rail scores 15 points.