But more than half of thoseTake our transit Straw Poll
polled are hesitant to commit
their tax dollars
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
More than half of those polled in a recent Honolulu Star-Bulletin/Hawaii News 8 poll say rail transit is a good idea for Oahu.
Whether they'd actually pay more taxes toward such a system, however, is an even proposition.
A rail line from Pearl City to the University of Hawaii-Manoa was supported by 18 percent polled. That plan was Mayor Jeremy Harris' original plan from a year ago and continues to be one of the three plans Harris and his administration are mulling.
A combination plan of more buses through the suburbs and a light rail/electric trolley line only from downtown to Waikiki garnered the most support in the poll with 39 percent. It's a proposal outlined by Harris during his recent State-of-the-City address.
Still, a good 33 percent of those polled would prefer going to an expanded bus system.
These were among the results of a Honolulu Star-Bulletin/Hawaii News 8 poll of 304 Oahu registered voters taken Feb. 11-13; the margin of error is plus or minus 5.7 percent.
The opinions of people at Ala Moana Center this week seemed to reflect the telephone poll's results.
"A necessary evil" is the way attorney Del Green, 39, of downtown, describes a light rail line. "We might as well bite the bullet and do it now. It's not going to get cheaper."
Retired businessman Nassir Najibi thinks Oahu needs light rail and needs it now.
"The population is growing, the island is small," said Najibi, 76, of Pearl City. "Even if it costs a couple billion, it's still worth it."
Tracy Redoble, 34, disagreed.
"I think it would add to the traffic we already have," the downtown pizza delivery worker said.
Harris said because 89 percent of those polled believe in one of the three solutions, it means people want traffic solutions and that his administration is going in the right direction.
Two rounds of islandwide community meetings have resulted in the three options and one is expected to be chosen by July, Harris said.
While there's majority support for some kind of rail line, more than half of those polled are hesitant to commit their tax dollars toward it.
According to the poll, 45 percent said they'd be willing to pay more taxes for any kind of transit plan. A majority 53 percent said they wouldn't be willing to fork over more.
Harris has not yet detailed how a rail plan would be funded.
Shirley Seeger, a 43-year-old "struggling single mom" from Wahiawa, thinks the city should commit tax dollars for a rail line.
"I don't mind paying a little more in taxes," she said, adding she's tired of receiving token tax rebates or other breaks that would be better served on worthy government programs.
Green believes today's residents have an obligation to deal with traffic now so future generations can live better lives. "I mean, we're riding on freeways that we didn't have to pay for."
Men and women polled about the same when it came to paying for transit. Among males, 45.3 percent were more willing to pay extra for transit while 44.2 percent of females favored additional taxes.
The $11.5 million restoration of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, another project backed by Harris, was disapproved 2 to 1 by those surveyed.
People clearly have an opinion on the issue with 62 percent thinking it was a bad idea, 32 percent thinking it was a good idea, and 6 percent undecided.
Wesley Grant, 28, disapproves of the restoration. "I don't think they should do it," the Manoa medical assistant said. "They should put money in other things that they need."
Sam Patchrapong, 40, an Ala Moana cook, thinks restoring the Natatorium is "wasting money when business is bad already. Right now, people in Hawaii are already having a hard time, even getting jobs."
Some of those who like the Natatorium restoration, however, are fierce about it.
"There's a lot of history at the Natatorium," said Thomas Nihi Leong, 54.
"Duke Kahanamoku swam there, Johnny Weismuller swam there," said Leong, a self-employed Waikiki lifeguard.
Harris said the poll shows media accounts are not giving people a clear story of the natatorium restoration.
Statistics supported by the administration show that demolishing the Natatorium and clearing the site would cost as much as restoring the facility.