Letters To The Editor
September 01, 2010 - MidWeek
I returned recently from a Mainland trip that included two days in Phoenix, checking on the status of their light rail at-grade system. The current metro light rail newsletter contained an article that stated that because of a substantial decrease in tax collections schedules, it will have to be adjusted from 10-minute to 12-minute service during rush hours and 20-minute service for the rest of the day. Holiday schedules also will be severely reduced in order to offset the financial shortfall.
The daily ridership in Phoenix is approximately 40,000, which is about one-third of the ridership projected for Honolulu. The Phoenix system was built for $1.4 billion for a 20-mile system with the federal government paying almost half its cost, and the low-maintenance stations are little more than bus shelters with ticket dispensers. Twenty percent of ridership is students, but of course our train does not even go to UH! Being at grade, the Phoenix train is very popular with bicyclists who can wheel their bikes right onto the train, something that will not be possible on the Honolulu train. During the bulk of the day in Phoenix, just 30 percent of the seats are occupied.
If Phoenix, with a population four times that of Honolulu and a train system that cost one-quarter of our projected cost, still cannot make it financially, then it is apparent that we are on a collision course for a major financial and aesthetic disaster. When flying into Los Angeles, Denver and Phoenix on this trip, I looked down on many miles on each side of the aircraft of dense development reaching to the horizon. In contrast, flying into Honolulu, with its narrow strip of land between our mountains and the sea, it was like returning to a village, not exactly a suitable location for the “high capacity” metro rail system being forced upon us.
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