Honolulu Rail Safety Plans Call for Security Cameras, Patrols

Written by Kyra Senese, Managing Editor
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A federally mandated rail safety plan that names the city Department of Transportation Services as the final responsible party for the forthcoming rail system is nearing official approval.

The Honolulu City Council unanimously approved the plan last week, with the city’s transit agency overseeing the operations, maintenance, and safety of the nearly $10 billion rapid transit system still under construction.

The rail plan, as approved, “serves as a guiding document describing the various safety-related roles and responsibilities, system safety activities, processes for identifying and managing potential system hazards, and a means of managing system safety for the operating rail system.”

DTS Director Roger Morton stated at an April 19 Council meeting that the rail plan “sets up a mechanism that promotes a safety culture within the rail system.” It features safety committees and includes “unionized partners on the rail side.”

Concerning unsafe incidents on the rail system, Morton stated that the plan requires the city to report all incidents to a federal database on a monthly basis, a local news report said.

Morton detailed at previous Council meetings how DTS will pay Hitachi Rail $52 million for operation and maintenance, and an additional $96.7 million when all related costs are factored in. Security, energy, elevator and escalator maintenance, fare collection, software and hardware, station and grounds maintenance, compliance oversight, consultant support, parts, and other services, and city staff are among the costs.

Morton also stated that approximately 2,000 security cameras will be installed aboard trains, as well as at stations, transit centers, and park-and-ride lots, and will be linked to “a sophisticated security monitoring system.”

Other security measures include rotating Hitachi employees, city-hired security guards who will patrol the rail system, and Honolulu Police Department officers who will respond to incidents aboard trains as needed.

The first segment of the rail, from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, will open in July, according to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Executive Director and CEO Lori Kahikina. The 18.75-mile, 19-station line is expected to be completed by 2031, according to HART.

On a related topic, members voted unanimously at the Council meeting to have HART and the city collaborate on a study to reevaluate the use of a planned parking garage for the rail station at Waiawa Pearl Highlands near Kamehameha Highway and close to the H-1 and H-2 freeways.

The parking garage’s construction was halted last year, in part due to its estimated $330 million cost.

Morton later stated that the study of the unused parking garage was initiated by another city agency, the Department of Land Management. “But we’ve pretty much taken over the study and we’re going to try to do this in a good-faith effort, ” he continued, adding that his colleagues are aware of the issues associated with the removal of the garage. 

Furthermore, Morton stated that the study may consider installing a temporary crossing or a pedestrian bridge at the rail station, as well as “look for alternatives to the parking issue.”

Ahead of the vote, Council member Val Okimoto, whose district includes the study area, wanted to know the study’s goals and timeline, as well as assurances that it would “not waste time and resources.”

Although the timeline for completion of the study was not specified, Morton stated that the city was committed to “working with the community” to provide better options for the site.