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April 9, 2007

Department of Transportation Services
City and County of Honolulu
650 South King Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Re: Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project Scoping

The League of Women Voters of Honolulu recommends that the following issues be addressed in the Draft EIS:

  • Potential riders. We do not think there is a sufficient population base to support the shortened route. Eliminating Waikiki and the University of Hawaii from the eastern terminus and a large part of the Ewa plain at the western end of the project leaves a much smaller population to support the project (which was inadequate to begin with). It appears that the City is using transit as a planning tool to encourage high population densities around the transit stations. This is a laudable goal for smart growth. However, it is highly unlikely that it will be paid for by the main beneficiaries, the landowners near the stations. Instead it will be most likely be funded at the local level by the increase in GET, the most regressive possible tax that will fall heaviest on persons with the least ability to pay. And long-term future growth will not provide riders for the system when it is constructed.

  • Rail vs. bus. The proposed amendment to the OMPO 2030 Plan makes it clear that the Honolulu City Council approved a fixed guideway system. It did not specify rail. The DEIS should also take note of this and not discuss the proposed system as though rail transit were the only option. Buses are a reasonable and much more flexible option than trains. Buses could enable some people to avoid transfers and thus increase ridership. Buses would stop in pull overs so that the buses would not block the guideway and would not hold up buses behind them. The DEIS should spell out the economics, social and environment aspects of the bus system and the rail system.

  • Costs. Projected costs have to date been unrealistic. The degree of cost escalation that has occurred so far indicates that the methodology now being used is poor and more accurate and realistic methods are needed.

  • Revenues. Projected revenues are also unrealistic. No system in the country has had a simultaneous increase in both bus and riders

  • Housing. Impacts on existing housing along the selected route should be addressed. How many units of affordable housing will be removed to build the fixed guideway structure and the transit stations?

  • Traffic congestion. The effects the proposed rail transit project will have on highway traffic should be displayed prominently. If letters to the editor of our local newspapers are any indication, many people believe that traffic congestion will be very much improved. In fact, the alternative analysis suggests that highway traffic won’t get worse as fast as it would have without transit. This is a vast difference and should be clearly explained. Congestion pricing should also be included as an alternative. This has been effective in other cities and there is no reason to think it would be effective on Oahu.

In general, the DEIS should address those areas that the Alternatives Analysis overlooked or made short work of in order to justify rail.

Thank you for giving is this opportunity to comment.

D. Piiolani Kaopuiki, President
League of Women Voters of Honolulu.


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