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President's Message
HOT Lanes Now Under Construction
State Council on May 13
Charter Commission (Evangeline Funk & Piilani Kaopuiki)
Case Against Rail Transit (Panos Prevedouros)
Astrid Monson, 1913-2006 (Arlene Ellis)
Transit Update (Charles Carole)
FBI Intimidation

The Case Against Rail Transit

At our April 8 membership meeting at the Hale Koa Hotel, UH Manoa professor Panos Prevedouros presented his case against Honolulus rail transit. Here, in his words, is a partial summary of his talk:

The Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project is studying how to improve the ability of people to move in the congested E-W corridor between Kapolei and UH. The problem is traffic congestion during extended peak periods. The ability to move can be satisfied with thousands of empty seats moving on a rail line every day. This is fake mobility, not a solution! It is an avoidance of the problem that the community needs solved.

The Citys site also says that over 60% of Oahus population lives within the proposed rail corridor. Perhaps 60% do live to the left and the right of a single rail line, in valleys and ridges. On the average, these residents have to walk about two miles on heels, dress shoes or flip-flops in order to "improve their ability to move." In reality, much less than 5% of Oahus population is within one half mile of rail stations and can somewhat conveniently use the rail line.

Normal daily life for most adults is a chain of events and trips, the vast majority of which occur outside a narrow rail "corridor." Rail corridor is a misnomer to begin with. Honolulu will only have 12 to 15 individual access points (stations) between Kapolei and the UH. For a comparison on accessibility and mobility, the H-1 freeway has 12 interchanges between the UH and Mapunapuna.

Will the average Honolulu commuter walk two miles to the station, and then do the same after work? Perhaps the answer is park and ride: Where is the space and budgets for large, multi-story parking structures? Too few, like the very few who used the failed express bus park and ride depot in Hawaii Kai.

Perhaps people will use buses to and from rail stations. So a typical commute would be: walk from home to the nearest bus stop, wait for the bus, ride the bus, exit at the rail station, up the escalator, wait to pay, go through the turn styles, wait for train, travel to your destination at 25 miles per hour or less, rush to exit the station, wait for transfer bus, board bus to nearest stop, and walk to your final destination.

The proposed rail system will also have major energy losses: It is a long linear system with frequent power-drawing start-and-acceleration cycles even when it is empty. An additional power plant will likely be needed. Recall that we have brown outs already.

People do not simply travel in order to clog the streets for each other. What we do is live our normal lives, participating in a variety of activities and giving and receiving numerous services

Between 2000 and 2004 Honolulu had a rail transit "dream team" consisting of Mayor Jeremy Harris, City Council Transportation Committee Chair Duke Bainum, and experienced transit executive Cheryl Soon in the helm at the Citys transportation department.

The project was Oahu Trans2K. Fixed rail transit was analyzed in preliminary stages and was rejected. It was rejected in 2002 because it was an unaffordable option and because it wouldnt meet FTA passenger demand requirements. Instead Trans2K concluded with a Bus Rapid Transit plan. The regional BRT component of that plan was highly meritorious but it has not been retained in the current "alternatives analysis." A regional BRT would provide a similar service, serve a similar number of passengers, and cost less than one quarter of the cost of rail.

Contrary to popular commentary, developers are not pro-rail. They are pragmatists who simply need a sufficient transportation capacity next to their property for it to become desirable for development. However, by necessity, they become pro-rail if the politician du jour is pro-rail.

Rail provides too few destinations and flexibility for job finding and retention. When placed on the ballot, and given true information about costs, communities soundly defeat rail proposals in favor of buses and roads. Oahu needs traffic relief and tax relief. Rail transit is loaded with local taxes, and is a congestion preservative. Recall that soon enough everyone on Oahu will be burdened by a 12.5% increase in the general excise tax. What we are getting is exactly the opposite of what we need: More congestion and more taxes!

Panos Prevedouos,
Professor of Transportation Engineering, U of Hawaii, Manoa
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