September 1992 Home   Newsletters

October 1992

November-December 1992

President's Message (Arlene Ellis)
Testimony before the Planning Commission 9/2/92 (Arlene Ellis)
League Recommendations on Proposed Charter Amendments
Statement on Policy and the Environment - 1 (Astrid Monson)
Statement on Policy and the Environment - 2 (Jean Aoki)
Statement on Policy and the Environment - 3 (Arlene Ellis)
Testimony on Bill 122, Excise Tax Surcharge (Arlene Ellis)
Testimony on Bill 122, Excise Tax Surcharge - 2 (Astrid Monson)
Rail Opponents Challenged to Find Alternatives (Astrid Monson)
Letters to the Editor - 1 (Arlene Ellis)
Letters to the Editor - 2 (Muriel R. Roberts)
Letters to the Editor - 3 (Katherine Kocel (P.K.A. Loew) & Susan MacKinnon)
Letters to the Editor - 4 (Barbara Farwell)

Statement before City Council on Policy and the Environment on Bill 122, ½% General Excise Tax Surcharge - 1

September 22, 1992

Just exactly thirteen years ago -- in 1979 -- this Council was receiving testimony on the then projected Honolulu Area Rapid Transit system -- HART. I testified in opposition, for the Council of Presidents, a clearing house for community organizations.

Proponents claimed that if HART were not built, we would have traffic gridlock by 1985; we didn't. We could put no more buses downtown, they said; we did. Hotel St. could not be turned into a bus-only transit mall, they said; but it was. We could not develop contra-flow or reversible lanes on Kapiolani or Kalanianaole; we did. We could not afford more express buses; we bought some. But, they said, we either build HART or the city will come to a screeching stop. It hasn't.

Even City transit staff now admit that building HART would have been disastrous. New technology, since developed, would have outmoded it. Its daily projected ridership of 473,000 was far too high. It would have run into horrendous financial losses. In July 1980 it was officially admitted that some projections were grossly incorrect "because staff erroneously used the wrong factors in the initial calculations."

Once again we are being pressured with similar arguments. But one thing is different. We now can look at the actual experience of new rail systems built in several cities since 1980 -- cities with far larger populations that Oahu's but far lower ridership than projected. We can study the busways and transitways actually in successful use in a number of cities by express buses, HOV's and para-transit. In at least one city -- Ottawa, Canada -we can look at a complete bus rapid transit system comparable in length, stations, and ridership to our rail proposal.

Have we learned anything in these thirteen years? Evidently, not much. The proposed rail guideway is essentially the same massive, clumsy commuter railroad being built twenty years ago, though it was advertised as light rail or mono-rail. Admitted not to reduce traffic congestion significantly, admitted to be used by only 6% or 7% of the trips Oahu's people make every day, it is now being sold as a job-producing scheme.

Jobs? When we could build tens of thousands of affordable homes, renew our entire infrastructure, bring our schools up to standard, improve our sewage treatment plants -- and now, rebuild some 9,000 homes on Kauai and Oahu?

We have a financial plan that would fall apart if GET surcharge tax revenues did not grow at the high rate projected, or if inflations grew more than 3% a year, or if not-yet-contracted-for costs were higher than estimated, or if there were many change orders or add-ons.

We think the time has come to face reality. Forget about rail and start working on a transit system that meets our needs, is suitable for our size, and that we can afford. The public will support you and their children will thank you.

Astrid Monson
Chair, Rail Transit Study Committee

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