Salt Lake is right route for rail
THERE'S nothing "ridiculous" about Salt Lake Boulevard as a segment of the proposed mass transit route, as stated by City Councilman Charles Djou ("Rail route could get easy OK by panel," Star-Bulletin, May 2).
Please consider the following reasons:
» Ridership. The Federal Transit Administration pays particularly close attention to ridership. Dallas and other jurisdictions with successful transit systems based the selection of their starter routes through neighborhoods with the largest number of potential riders.
An estimated 70,000 to 80,000 residents live along a four-mile stretch of Salt Lake Boulevard that includes the communities of Salt Lake, Aliamanu, Foster Village and Lower Halawa-Stadium. These numbers represent a solid ridership base.
In comparison, there are approximately 2,900 civilian employees at Hickam and 9,500 at Pearl Harbor. None of the four stations for the airport alignment is within walking distance to these major employment centers.
» Cost. Based on the Alternatives Analysis report, Salt Lake Boulevard will cost about $120 million less than the airport alignment. With only two transit stations planned for Salt Lake Boulevard that are 2.6 miles apart, the report estimated operation and maintenance costs at about $2 million a year because of the costs for circulator buses. Building a third station would reduce O&M costs and place more residents within walking distance to the transit line. Even with a third station, Salt Lake Boulevard would be cheaper than the airport alignment by $100 million.
» Higher farebox revenues. Currently, the annual subsidy for the bus is more than $100 million. With the ferry and transit systems coming on board, taxpayer subsidy is estimated at $200 million per year. The city has a better chance to recoup this subsidy if there is a solid ridership base, like on Salt Lake Boulevard. The more farebox revenues generated, the less taxpayer money is needed to subsidize O&M costs.
» 2030 ridership projections. The Alternative Analysis report based its projections on the year 2030. If we build the minimum operable segment by 2017 as planned, the airport alignment will not reach projected ridership levels for another 13 years, resulting in less farebox revenue. With Salt Lake Boulevard, the city won't have to wait until 2030, since the desired ridership base already is in place.
» Ownership. Because the city owns Salt Lake Boulevard, there would be fewer obstacles to overcome compared to the airport alignment, which would run on state property.
» Airport alignment needs Waikiki spur. I am not against servicing the airport. However, the airport alignment does not make sense without a spur into Waikiki. To attract visitors, the rail line must run as close as possible to the passenger terminals. This is not the case for the proposed station at the airport, which is at a considerable distance from the terminals.
Delaying the airport alignment for a future date will give the state time to properly plan, design and build a transit system and station closer to the passenger terminals, to be done concurrently with the Waikiki spur.
For these reasons, I believe Salt Lake Boulevard is the right choice to make for the greater good.
Romy M. Cachola represents District 7 (Kalihi-Salt Lake-Foster Village) on the Honolulu City Council.