Council learns lessons on rail
Delegates visiting the mainland see that senior residents in other cities benefit
As City Council members wrap up their visit to mainland cities with rail transit, they have discovered one segment of the population that has benefited from them: senior citizens.
And that could happen in Honolulu as well, they say, with senior citizens living in neighborhoods where they could bike or walk to libraries, stores and train stations.
"Our seniors want to age in place. They tell us that all the time. Age in place means you're still part of the mainstream community," said Barbara Kim Stanton, AARP Hawaii state director.
Places like Kakaako and Kalaeloa could gain economic rejuvenation and social enhancement if rail runs through there.
"Transit can be a tool to help us set the stage for those kinds of successful outcomes in both districts," said Dan Dinell, executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority. "There are many lessons to take away."
And members of a delegation led by the City Council are finding plenty of lessons during a trip this week to several mainland cities with rail transit.
"If and when you put a transit system in Honolulu -- how do you plan to foster the transit village concept, encourage more ridership and make the city more livable and enjoyable?" said Andy Robbins, director of project development for Bombardier Transportation, which developed Vancouver, British Columbia's 20-year-old rail transit system.
"They're learning these practices from all these other cities," Robbins said.
Council members Donovan Dela Cruz, Ann Kobayashi and Todd Apo are leading a delegation that includes Stanton, Dinell and representatives of government agencies and housing developers.
They started in Vancouver on Saturday, traveled to Portland, Ore., and are wrapping up their visit today in Denver.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann is expected to lead another delegation to Oregon and California next week to see, among other things, how rail transit connects to places like university campuses. The mayor also is organizing an Oct. 5 transit symposium that will bring to Honolulu the latest transit information from other cities.
Dela Cruz said the trip is validating the position of some Council members that planning for transit development must begin now.
"You have to make sure that stations are accessible and easy to get to. They have to be integrated as part of the development and they have to be pedestrian friendly," Dela Cruz said.
But Hannemann cautioned the Council not to become too distracted with rail transit, since it must still decide whether to choose rail at all. The Council is slated to vote to choose among four transit alternatives, including rail.
"I don't want the Council to get sidetracked with this transit-oriented development scheme here -- it will come in due time," the mayor said.
Dinell and Stanton said what's happened in other cities is showing them the need to plan well, including land-use decisions that would allow a system to be built in phases.