We need to get cars off roads, not put more on
WHEN mass-transit discussions started again, I thought the community would finally back a rail system -- especially after seeing traffic increase, gas prices soar and other rail systems around the world working well. But it seems we are now hearing claims that we need more study, more time, more votes and so on. I feel strongly that what we need is action. It is sad to think we might miss -- for the third time -- the golden opportunity to build a federally subsidized rail system.
Parking and traffic have always been problems at the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus, where I work. UH-Manoa has about 20,000 registered students and around 3,500 faculty and staff. The majority of students and many of us who work at UH live too far from campus to walk, so we need transit options. I often see students arriving at or before 6 a.m. and then sleeping in their cars. They arrived early to beat traffic and find one of the 5,500 coveted parking spaces on campus, then recuperate by catching some sleep before classes begin. When the UH-West Oahu campus opens, we could have an additional 7,000 students. If students want to take classes at both Manoa and West Oahu, we will need an efficient way to get faculty and students between campuses. Rail is the most logical answer.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
Rail transit supporters rallied in front of City Hall on King Street on July 6, 2005, prior to the City Council's vote for a general excise tax hike to pay for a transit system
The proposed toll road will benefit the few people who commute to Honolulu from Leeward Oahu and can afford the toll. Those people in their cars will be dumped into Honolulu, causing gridlock for everyone.
It is shocking that the City Council would seriously consider an alternative that puts more cars on the road. Fossil fuels are limited, and the price of gas will soon be prohibitive for many drivers. An elevated toll road is a shortsighted solution to the problem. The cost of a toll road is really not that much cheaper than rail when considering all the lost productivity time spent in traffic that is crawling through the streets of Honolulu.
Rail service will benefit a much greater percentage of the population with its many stations, and it will provide a fast, energy-efficient, low-pollution transit option for our residents. You can argue where it goes, what technology it will use and other factors, but as I see it, there is no other reasonable choice but rail. Remember the traffic congestion during the weeks public schools, private schools and UH begin? It will only get worse.
I urge the City Council to make the intelligent decision and approve rail as the transit option for the future of Oahu.
Brian N. Popp is a professor and associate chairman of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.