Other city's rail problems prompt HART officials to plan ahead

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By 2018, Honolulu hopes to have the first fully driver-less transit system in the country. It's supposed to make travel less of a hassle and hopes to be an alternative to spending hours trapped in traffic.

But computers don't always work the way they're supposed to. Last summer, a series of power outages created chaos for commuters with a similar system in Canada, but the issues didn't end there. According to Canadian newspaper reports, there have been seven major shutdowns since the start of the year, and thousands of passengers were left stranded.

"What could have been a 20 minute trip on a train might end up taking you two hours depending on how severe the original stoppage reason was and what time of day it is," said The Province reporter Stephanie Ip.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation's Executive Director Dan Grabauskas says plans are already in place should there be a system shut-down here.

"We will not only have one of the most state of the art systems. But state of the art back-up systems. If the grid should go down we will have a back-up generating power to allow the trains to safely get where ever they are at the time of the power outage to the nearest station. Doors will open and safely offload passengers," said Grabauskas.

According to an independent study, lack of communication between folks who knew what was happening and passengers was a key issue in Vancouver.

"In the event of a power loss a communications failure we have redundancy build into the systems so we'll literally be able to switch over and keep in touch with our passengers," said Grabauskas.

Another big difference between rail in Vancouver and the system being built here has to do with age. Skytrain's first line opened 30 years ago.

"The system is dated, the computer is also dated so with that you're going to get your breakdowns now and then," said Ip.

This rail line will be the 25th driverless system built in the world. Officials say they are learning from experience as to what works and what doesn't.

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