West Oahu residents praise approval of transit system
The city must still decide whether the route will go through the airport and service the Ewa plain
Residents who suffer through long commutes from West Oahu to town praised Friday's historic City Council vote to approve a mass-transit system, which is expected to cost between $4.6 billion and $5.5 billion.
The Council approved the system to run from Kapolei to the University of Hawaii-Manoa, with a possible spur to Waikiki.
But the Council left it up to the city administration to decide whether to pass through the airport or the condo-heavy Salt Lake area. The mayor also must decide whether the route will go to the Ewa plain through the planned North-South Road or take a less-expensive route along Farrington Highway that bypasses Ewa.
The Council also reserved the right to decide whether the system will use buses or trains.
"I really hope it goes through the airport," said Macia Aldeguer, 51, a flight operator for Japan Airlines, who wakes up at 4 a.m. to head to work from Waianae.
Many, including Gov. Linda Lingle, believe the route should go to the airport.
Lingle said yesterday said she believes the route should pass through Ewa Beach. In earlier comments, Lingle has said it seems only logical for the route to pass through the airport, to service tourists as well as employees.
Lingle said she the Council "made the right call" in allowing the administration to decide the routes.
At the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet yesterday, Kahala resident Brian Whitney said an airport route would serve the greater good.
"The airport is basically the hub of the island," Whitney said.
Whitney, 45, said he travels to Bangkok, which has a mass-transit system, to purchase lanterns for his booth.
"I plan my trips by the skytrain routes," Whitney said. "I look down and I can imagine how crazy I'd be being in the gridlock."
Bruce Arsiga, 39, of Kapolei, travels to downtown every day and said it doesn't matter whether the fixed-guideway system consists of trains or buses, as long as it doesn't use the same lanes as cars.
"I was talking to a friend earlier: 'Why don't they just get a bus lane into town instead?' " Arsiga said. "But then I thought, they're in the same traffic as I am. As long as it avoids all that and all the stoplights, it's good to me."
Cliff Slater, a longtime opponent of a rail system, said he was still "quite pleased" with the decision to remove rail from the wording of the law.
"We're much better off at the moment than we thought we were gonna be at the beginning of the month," Slater said yesterday, adding he will continue to lobby for the regional bus rapid transit system, and against rail.
"Most independent businessmen in town all oppose it," he said. "We spend our lives looking for benefits to ourselves and the community, and this is not one of them."
Waianae resident Donald Kaanapu, 49, said regardless of the method, the new transit system will alleviate traffic caused by the increasing Leeward population.
He also said he believes it will create more jobs, not just in contracting work, but also in security, plus more transit employees and shops at some of the transit stops.
Grant Teichman, president of the Associated Students of UH, said in a survey of more than 1,100 students, more than half said they favored rail.
"Now this is something that generations of students after us must follow through on," said Teichman, joking that fifth-grade students should be asked today whether they'll use the system. "It seems everything the students asked for, they got. Now we'll have to keep tabs."
Kapolei Neighborhood Board Chairwoman Maeda Timson recalled panicking when the Council initially voted to delay the transit decision.
"I thought it was going to be a train wreck," she said. "Fourteen years ago, we were in the same spot, begging for rail, and I thought, 'Please don't let this be deja vu.' "
Timson said she believes buses would only bottleneck the traffic, and is glad the administration will now work with consultants and engineers to map the transit system's future.
"I think now everyone needs to relax, enjoy the holiday, and know that we're moving forward," Timson said.
Star-Bulletin reporter Robert Shikina contributed to this report.