Mayor reports transit map is generating enthusiasm
From officials with the University of Hawaii to the military, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he is receiving favorable reaction to the routes and transit stations being proposed for a rail system.
"I think what people are seeing now, they see hope. They see that someone is addressing what we have (been) experiencing for far too long: traffic gridlock seven days a week," the mayor said.
But a longtime critic of rail says that the location of train stations is a "minor" consideration in the larger picture of how much the rail system will cost and how many people will ride it.
"Frankly, I think they're making a fuss over the stations at the moment to get people to forget about the cost and ridership," Cliff Slater said.
The city has selected tentative locations for transit sites along four general routes between Kapolei and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Beginning Tuesday, the public will be able to view the routes and stations at www.honolulutransit.org.
Mark Scheibe, project manager with consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, said several criteria went into selecting the sites for the train stations.
One consideration was locating stations at major destinations, such as the university, downtown and shopping centers.
Another factor was whether residents could easily get to and from those sites from their homes by walking, taking a bus or driving to a park-and-ride site.
Engineering considerations were looked at. The number of stations and the distance between them also played a role.
"At this point we're locating stations kind of in general locations. We're within a block or so of where it would be located. As we get into more detailed analysis, we'll start looking at specific details like where the escalators and elevators will be located," Scheibe said.
Hannemann was careful not to state a preference on a particular route or on the location of stations, but said he was pleased with what he had seen so far and also pleased with the reaction he had received from councilmembers and community leaders.
"I think our technicians are laying out some very viable options for us to consider," the mayor said.
Hannemann said he was hearing excitement about the possibilities the routes and stations would have for entities such as the military and the university.
"The university officials I talked to are really looking forward to this because they see it. We're going to help them bring students to the school, for their athletic events," the mayor said.
Other leaders agree.
"It appears the city has done a thorough job in locating the areas where high ridership and density currently is and will be," said state Sen. Willie Espero (D, Ewa).
Espero said the stations would accommodate future growth for eastern Kapolei and help current residents in Ewa Beach.
For example, a planned 67-acre commercial property at Kapolei Parkway and the future North-South Road is being looked at for a shopping center and as a regional transit hub, Espero said.
"I really like the stops along the North-South Road," said state Rep. Kymberly Pine (R, Ewa). "I think any other location coming up Kapolei or coming up Fort Weaver would aggravate the traffic situation and actually cause a hardship during the construction period."
Espero said station location in downtown Honolulu will be particularly important.
Slater, however, said talk about the cost and ridership should be at the forefront.
"It's not really about the stations; it's about people's lifestyles," Slater said. "All the pretty pictures in the world don't add up to anything, because the core thing that people need to know is the cost and the benefits."
Toru Hamayasu, city chief transportation planner, said that is not accurate.
"That's really wrong because we have to have some idea of where to put the stations in order to get the cost," Hamayasu said. "There's a big difference between putting them on this side of the intersection, that side of the intersection or at the top of the intersection."
Hamayasu said that while the map consists of dots and lines to represent the stations and routes, there is more to interpreting that data.
"Engineers look at these locations and determine right now it looks doable," Hamayasu said.