Rallying Against The Rail System
Wednesday - February 20, 2008
“Transit System Likely Won’t Improve Traffic.”
So read the front page headline of a Honolulu daily last week.
Well, duh! That’s precisely what a small group of “fanatical anti-rail critics” have been saying ever since we were all mugged by a 12.5 percent GET increase to pay for a rail system that was supposed to “improve traffic.”
Following that headline, the story began: “It’s unlikely Honolulu’s planned $3.7-billion transit system will affect deteriorating peak-hour traffic conditions along the H-1 corridor, according to city projections.”
It also won’t get commuters to the airport, Waikiki or to UH.
It also won’t cost a mere $3.7 billion, given the inevitable cost overruns.
It also won’t get as many riders from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center and back as fast as the leading and much less expensive alternative system - dedicated, elevated contraflow HOV lanes.
When thinking “dedicated HOV lanes,” think of modern, hybrid, 60 mph, nonstop express buses and high-occupancy hybrid private- or corporate-sponsored vans on an elevated highway from Kapolei to Ala Moana - and yes, to the airport, Waikiki and UH - and ultimately the logical tie-in from Mililani along the H-2 corridor. Private autos would be allowed on a variable toll basis, the lowest tolls when excess capacity is available (likely off peak hours).
Inexplicably, the currently convened panel of experts, which is supposed to choose the best technology on which to spend these billions, isn’t even allowed to consider the dedicated HOV lane option. Which is not surprising, considering the mayor’s and some city councilmembers’ irrationally adamant opposition to anything but a train. And this is even, as they admit through their transportation spokespeople, that their train won’t solve our traffic problem.
What will it do? As officially envisioned, it will cause questionably “beneficial” development - including high-rise condos and retail facilities - around each of the 19 stations, each of which is a major construction project in itself, with more asphalt for “park and ride,” electrical power, maintenance and security expenses, and likely legal expenses for contested “eminent domain” seizures. It will provide years of countless jobs for the construction industry, as would any option selected, but the more expensive the project the greater the gratitude of the unions: “Thank you, Mr. Mayor!” And for the mayor and the City Council, there’s the “legacy” thing.
And speaking of the City Council, it has reserved for itself - by resolution - the final say in the selection of the technology, i.e. some kind of train or, alternatively, HOV/express vehicles. But even the council’s transportation chair, Nestor Garcia, now tells us “the rail or fixed-guideway system was never meant to solve traffic congestion.”
Folks, we’ve been had! We swallowed hard and accepted the GET increase, which will cost the average Oahu family thousands of dollars over the 15-year life of the tax “surcharge.” We thought, “well, if this is what it’s gonna take to get me home in time to spend a few of extra hours a week with the kids, I can suck it up.” What wishful thinking! I’m outraged by this shibai and you should be, too.
Think of the elimination of tons of exhaust gases pumped into our environment from thousands of cars at idle each day. Think of the infrastructure that could be upgraded, the preservation land purchased or the bike lanes that could be built with money saved by dedicated HOV lanes vs. a train.
We still have a little time to put an end to this railroad job before it becomes the inevitable train wreck that it is.
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