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July 2007

City EIS Ignores Bus Option (Jackie Parnell)
Testifying for Beaches (Pearl Johnson)
Do we Need Secondary Treatment for out Waste Water? (Jackie Parnell)
Welcome New Members
Directories Coming
Train for Emergencies
Counties Should Take Over Highways (Charles Carole)
Calendar of Events

City EIS Ignores Bus Option

On June 19, the Honolulu Advertiser ran a somewhat astounding story on the environmental impact study (EIS) planned for the proposed mass-transit system. It was remarkable in that the City transit planners openly stated that their analysis of the planned alternatives was going to be cursory as their minds were already made up.

Since the City is asking for federal funds, the EIS has to meet federal (NEPA) standards. The standards require that they thoroughly and disinterestedly examine ALL alternatives, including alternative routes and alternative technologies, in this case, buses as well as trains.

Yet the City planners were quoted as saying that the controversial Salt Lake Boulevard path chosen by the City Council was not in jeopardy: "There is no hidden agenda or secret plan to change the route chosen by the council," said top city transit planner Toru Hamayasu. "That decision has been made."

He further stated that "The reason for studying the airport-only route has nothing to do with any desire to change it," he said. "We're doing it only because it was suggested in comments made during the scoping process."

They also indicated that they would not even consider using City buses on the separate guideway system. The environmental report will only consider light rail, rapid rail, rubber-tired guided vehicles, and magnetic levitation and monorail systems.

Several groups and individuals voiced concerns about the transit plan in comments submitted for the scoping report, including the League.

The Advertiser’s article noted that “The League of Women Voters of Honolulu said the city appears to be encouraging high population densities around transit stations to be built.

Such development can reflect good urban planning, but "it is highly unlikely that it will be paid for by the main beneficiaries, the landowners near the stations," the group said. "Instead it will most likely be funded at the local level by the increase in (the general excise tax), the most regressive possible tax that will fall heaviest on persons with the least ability to pay."

We also requested that they analyze the alternatives fairly (!) and that they consider the impact of the removal of affordable housing in their choice of the preferred route.

As a professional environmental planner who has written many an EIS, I can't believe that City transit planners are openly stating that their analysis of alternatives is going to be a shibai! Yet they say publicly, no worry, we aren't really looking at the airport route as a viable alternative and oh yes, buses? Of course, we have ruled these out, rail only is all we will consider.

For years I have defended my EIS as genuine discussions of alternatives against accusations that all EIS are justification documents. And here is the City, openly stating that “justification” is their intention thus laying the grounds for a probably successful lawsuit. Auwe!

Jackie Parnell

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