Ingenuity, civility needed in transit talk
When you have nothing to be defensive about, why be defensive? I find myself pondering this as the tone over the mass transit issue becomes more of a debate and less of a discussion. Democracy is about encouraging and considering all perspectives. Diversity is the backbone of perpetuity.
The very thing we missed during the Superferry's introduction was a vigorous public discussion. Now we have the unprecedented opportunity to discuss and to plan the mass transit technology that will travel upon the proposed fixed guideway. We should expect a resolution nothing short of spectacular -- but only ingenuity, innovation and, above all, civility will get us there.
I applaud and honor all those standing up for something -- the mayor, the City Council, the Legislature and the advocates of grassroots-driven alternatives.
Let us agree that this is historic, but it is also confusing. We have approved an above-ground route that will carry some kind of mass transit vehicle funded partly by an excise tax increase. But from here the path to success seems paved with confusion and vilification. It appears that current state legislation limits the mass transit technology to something other than simple buses. It appears that some have proposed big buses that are like rail cars, but have wheels. It appears that the next step, conducting an environmental impact statement, will not include the consideration of these big buses.
All I know is this: I live in Ewa and, as chairman of our neighborhood board's Traffic and Transportation Committee, I represent tens of thousands of prospective mass transit riders. As it stands, the transit stations are meant to discourage mass parking lots, leaving us to wonder -- if we ride the mass transit system, where do they want us to park?
Obviously, we would like to keep more cars off of all roads. It seems that it is still possible to combine the expediency of a fixed guideway with the mobility, reliability and diversity of buses. Right now, the desperately unserved spurs of the airport, Ewa and the Leeward Coast will need their own tracks and fixed guideways to achieve the full benefits of mass transit.
Can we please have a timeout and decide if it is still possible for a citizen to get on a bus, be it big or small, in Waianae, Ewa or the airport and not have to get off until he or she reaches town? It cannot be that hard. It really is not different from rail cars, it just so happens that we let the rail cars leave their tracks for those communities we cannot serve with a fixed guideway.
No one knows what innovations await the world in the coming century. I would personally prefer that our fixed guideway become a road for these innovations. We might actually discover that we export jobs and technologies from creating our own carbon-neutral mass transit vehicles.
Today's bus will be something altogether different in 50 years.
R. Scott Belford is chairman of the Ewa Beach Neighborhood Board's transportation committee.