Wednesday, May 15, 2002

City & County of Honolulu

2 Council panels
OK bus transit plan

A proposal for a route from Iwilei
to Waikiki heads for a full hearing

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

It looks like the City Council is ready to give the green light to the Iwilei-to-Waikiki leg of the city's Bus Rapid Transit plan.

Members of two key Council committees voted unanimously yesterday to recommend that the Council approve an amendment to the city's development plan that would allow for the 5.6-mile high-frequency express bus service.

The bill now goes to the Council for a public hearing on May 29.

Mayor Jeremy Harris' administration wants the Council to approve a $35 million appropriation for the first segment, which will run along exclusive lanes through part of town, and share lanes with other vehicles in other sections.

The development plan approval is needed for the $35 million funding.

Cheryl Soon, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, has put the total cost at $67 million. The federal government has already earmarked $12 million and is expected to bankroll the remaining $20 million.

Supporters said the Bus Rapid Transit project was developed over a number of years through a carefully planned, community-based process.

"I think it's time," said Kaimuki resident Lydia Yee.

"We have waited 10 years for this transit alternative to come to the Council," Yee said, referring to the Council's failure in 1992 to approve an excise tax increase that would have funded a rail-transit system.

Mililani resident Jesse Tano, a bus rider, said the Bus Rapid Transit plan would help ease traffic coming into town from outlying areas for both those who ride it and those still in cars.

"The traffic's only going to get worse," Tano said. "We need to do something now."

Those opposed to the project questioned whether it will effectively ease traffic through downtown.

"We already have a bus system (and) it's great," said Burt Goldenburg, a Kapiolani area resident. "So why don't we just fix it, just tune it up? Why do we have to spend money and take a lot of risks?"

Dick Stephenson, founder of the anti-Bus Rapid Transit organization Oahutrans4all, said the project will not alleviate traffic because "for any mass transit system to work, it must be on its own right of way." He warned the project could divert federal funding from more efficient traffic improvements.

Bob Bramen, an official with city consultant Parsons, Brinkerhoff, Quade and Douglas, said 2 percent of motorists are expected to start using city transit, increasing its ridership by 11 percent.

"We think that's getting a pretty good bang for the buck," he said.

Bramen acknowledged the plan could actually increase congestion, at least initially.

"There's no question. I'm not trying to say there won't be some congestion," he said. "But over time, what you will see is, as you see people shifting from automobile to transit, the impacts will be less."

City & County of Honolulu

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