Council gears up for important transit vote
The City Council took several steps yesterday to get ready for a crucial vote later this year on choosing a mass transit system.
The council voted yesterday to approve:
» Two trips to several mainland cities to tour rail transit systems and the communities around them.
» The creation of a task force that will assist the Council in making a decision on the transit vote.
» Calling on the administration to begin proposing zoning and land use changes to accommodate transit-oriented developments along a rail line and report back to the Council by Nov. 1.
The Hannemann administration is in the midst of analyzing four mass transit choices: rail, dedicated toll highway lanes, an enhanced bus system or a do-nothing option.
The City Council is slated to choose one option by the end of the year, just before a 0.5 percent transit tax is scheduled to kick in.
Later this month, Councilmembers Donovan Dela Cruz, Ann Kobayashi and Todd Apo will travel to Vancouver, British Columbia; Portland, Ore.; and Denver to examine transit systems and the developments designed around those systems. Accompanying the councilmembers on the Sept. 16-21 trip will be representatives of other government agencies and housing developers.
"Rail is a $3 billion-to-$4 billion project," Council Chairman Dela Cruz said. "We need to plan well. We need to discover the mistakes other cities have made, discover the successes, learn from them so we can do it right the first time."
The Council also approved sending Councilmembers Romy Cachola, Barbara Marshall, Gary Okino and Rod Tam with city planning staff on a federally funded trip Oct. 15-26.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann will lead a delegation that includes a couple of councilmembers, developers, University of Hawaii officials, labor union and business leaders, and members of the Transit Finance Advisory group to Portland, Vancouver, San Francisco and San Diego.
"It basically gives the administration the opportunity to look at several aspects of transit, including transit-oriented development, technology and to consult with other city officials about the successes and shortcomings of their particular systems," city spokesman Bill Brennan said.
Final costs for all the trips were not available.
Councilman Charles Djou, the only one of the nine councilmembers not going on any of the trips, said that on the surface sending officials to see transit-oriented developments in other places has some merit.
"Why we need to send every single elected official in city government on three different trips to the same cities that many of us have already gone on using taxpayer money doesn't quite make sense to me," he said. "A lot of junkets. And I just hope this is not the beginning of the blooming of the cost of a $4 billion rail project."