Golden Gate Caused Grumbles Too

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - September 15, 2010
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Early construction work on the Golden Gate Bridge

I’m wary of drawing too much analogy to public transportation projects, but I can’t help noticing the similar objections between our Oahu transit-train-to-be and the Golden Gate Bridge, completed in 1937.

The bridge was too expensive, required a horrible tax and nobody would use it. Besides, there already was ferry service between San Francisco and Marin County. They’d probably never get the Golden Gate Bridge built today.

Just as that bridge would not have been without some bullying by Mayor James Rolph Jr., our train would not be proceeding without some bullying by our just-resigned-to-runfor-governor mayor.

We seem to have developed two means of governance as we’ve evolved politically. One is to gauge the way the most voters feel and to get elected/re-elected without much head wind. The other is to force citizens off their lazy butts, insist on progress and hope to be forgiven for being a bully.

Former mayors Neal Blaisdell and Eileen Anderson mostly went with the wind direction. Frank Fasi did not. He tore down Queen’s Surf, kicked out the sidewalk sellers and gave the bum’s rush to Harry Weinberg’s HRT in favor of a city-owned bus company.

We make some critical decisions this fall on the type of leadership we want at City Hall and on the top floor of the State Capitol. Central to that will be whether we progress with a transit train or stick with highways.

This is not just about cost, train style, jobs and view-planes. It’s about radically changing the way we live. It’s about not-very-subtly forcing us to give up some of our cars and all the freedom of movement they give us, and limiting our ease of shopping and delivering kids to school and soccer games. A fewer-cars society would be very different.

My opinion is that we have to be herded into making that change. Roads and freeway flyovers simply put off the inevitable gridlock.

The penalty for a politician pushing the change-resisters is to be labeled a bully. But most San Franciscans cannot imagine their city today without the Golden Gate Bridge. I suspect that 20 years after our train we’ll not only wonder how we lived without it but will be looking at its extensions to Mililani and Hawaii Kai.

People resist change and major public works projects, and in Hawaii we have resisted more than most. I’m reminded of how many said the $25 million cost of the Golden Gate Bridge in the ‘30s would break the city.

If it’s any consolation, it’s unlikely that anyone will use our elevated train platforms as suicide leap-stations the way some 1,300 people have used the Golden Gate Bridge.


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