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Rail Transit
President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
Testimony on SB 2665, Relating to Environmental Impact...
Violence Prevention (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
Governor Revises Tax Proposals (Astrid Monson)
Proposed Budget FY 1998-1999
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1998 Elections
National Convention
Annual Meeting

Rail Transit

For some 20-odd years the people of Oahu have resisted a series of proposals to build a rail transit system along the southern edge of the island. None of these has been adopted, for good reasons: Oahu's population is too small to support such a system; it would create no significant decrease in traffic congestion or air pollution; it would be used by only a small fraction of daily trip makers; it would forever ruin the scenic view planes from ocean to the mountains; it would capital expenditures and operating subsidies totally out of proportion to the benefits achieved by the public. With the City, State and Federal budgets stretched to the limit and revenues declining, we can only be thankful that none of these proposals was accepted.

Until last year, these proposals were considered dead. Now we are looking at another attempt to revive them, this time in the guise of an innocent-sounding bill (mis-entitled "Relating to Tourism") to "establish a people mover development authority within the office of planning for administrative purposes to review the possibility of developing a people mover system between Waikiki and the Convention Center and other areas of Honolulu." This to be privately financed at no cost to the tax payers.

Among other provisions, the bill 1] authorizes establishment of a "People Mover Development Authority" and the appropriation of an unspecified amount of money to such authority. 2] Leaves the door open for funding from "other nonpublic sources". We leave you to figure out what these might be. 3] Provides for the Governor to set aside, transfer, convey or lease public lands to the Authority. 4] Exempts the contractor, with respect: to the people mover system and its appurtenant structures, stations, and related improvements, from all statutes, ordinances, charter provisions, and rules of any governmental agency relating to planning, zoning, development, and improvement of land and the construction of buildings or other improvements therein. 5] Exempts the Authority from the payment of assessments levied by any county and from the payment of State taxes of any kind with respect to the real property interest of the Authority within the corridor or route to be utilized by the people mover system. and 6] Declares all powers and functions of the Authority to be public and governmental functions exercised for a public purpose and matters of public necessity.

Those of us who opposed Mayor Fasi's rail transit proposals may be forgiven for having a sense of deja vu about this bill. Once passed, it could become a vehicle for another attempt to commit the State to the building of a white elephant at partial or complete public expense.

It would be difficult to take this proposition seriously. Why are we trying to take bus transit revenues away from Honolulu County and giving it private industry? THE BUS route #8 serving tourists from Waikiki to Ala Moana is the most heavily used income producer for the City. Routes #2 and #13 are long lines that serve both visitors and residents from Waikiki to various outlying tourist destinations. These routes are over-flowing with users and could use additional service, not over-priced competition.

For any number of reasons – financial, environmental, political, and more - we oppose this bill. The expenditure of public funds to set up the proposed Authority, to make studies, to prepare requests for proposals, and to staff the Authority would be an obvious waste of time and money. We have more important things to worry about and to do.

*Excerpt from the House Standing Committee Report: "[3] allowing the Department of Transportation to Aggressively, explore ways to obtain federal transportation funding." (Emphasis by editor)

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