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December 2003

February 2004

Rail Transit and the League of Women Voters (Pearl Johnson)
December Meeting Speakers
LWV of Honolulu Transportation Position
Sludge Digestor Needed at Sand Island (Jackie Parnell)
Welcome New Members


Residents of Honolulu are again faced with deciding on rail transit for the island. In September 1992, the Honolulu City Council voted down a proposed rail transit plan by 5 to 4. Before that vote, the plan had been moving forward by 5 to 4 votes. The council member who withdrew her support of rail was Rene Mansho. Always voting against the plan were Steve Holmes, John Henry Felix, Arnold Morgado and John De Soto.

The League of Women Voters of Honolulu played a crucial role in this defeat of rail transit. Immediately after the City presented the plan in January 1990, League formed the Transit Task Force chaired by Patricia Tummons, now the editor of Environment Hawaii. By April the Task Force had produced a 23-page booklet, "Arguments For and Against a Rail Transit System for Honolulu. At the consensus meeting in May, heated discussion resulted in the overwhelming decision to oppose the rail transit plan.

Our files document the struggle following consensus. We testified against the city's proposed rail transit plan at every available opportunity. We also analyzed the City's numbers and pointed out erroneous assumptions. A memorable whopper was assuming transit ridership in Honolulu would be over 10 times the rate of actual ridership in cities with operating rail transit.

We also worked closely with a widely diverse group including state and city officials, private transportation providers, businesses, interested groups and private citizens and produced a study on "Bus Rapid Transit" - no relation to the City's "BRT" of today. We cooperated with other opponents of rail, including Cliff Slater, our speaker at this month's meeting.

More than two years after consensus and shortly before the crucial City Council meeting, President Arlene Ellis and Planning and Zoning Chair Astrid Monson met with Rene Mansho to present the hard figures of probable costs and operating losses. Whether that meeting produced the change in vote may never be known. Than, as now, the powers-that-be are suggesting an increase in the most regressive of all taxes, the general excise tax, where the burden on the poor will be devastating.

Pearl Johnson

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