Ditch HOT lanes and busways in favor of rail for Honolulu
The Committee for Balanced Transportation, a nonprofit group formed in 2004 for the education and advocacy of measures to alleviate traffic congestion on Oahu, is pleased with the city's decision to form a five-member technology panel to aid with the evaluation of each transit proposal (rail or bus) and, ultimately, the final selection of a transit system for Honolulu. As such, we are looking forward to an open and competitive selection process. To ensure transparency in the city's review and selection process, however, the CBT suggests that all nonproprietary information from each company responding to the Request for Information be made available to the public.
Inasmuch as each system eventually will be evaluated against a number of criteria (capacity, reliability, speed, noise and vibration levels, safety, cost of operations and maintenance, construction costs for a fixed guideway), we believe that the following transportation concepts should be eliminated from consideration:
» High occupancy tollway or "HOT" lane concept. The reason? City Council Bill 40, which established the general excise tax surcharge, explicitly states that "No moneys received from the surcharge shall be used to build or repair public roads or highways." And it is for the same reason that recently introduced legislation to use the GET for "highway technology" should be defeated; it is just another attempt to acquire public money to fund toll roads.
» Busway concept. The use of buses would require not only a guideway considerably wider than for a rail system, but also ramps for ingress and egress. Additionally, the use of buses also would require the added cost of a driver, as opposed to an automated rail system.
Honolulu has an outstanding bus system. Thus, we support the city's concept of a rail system, integrated with feeder buses, as the "best" for the City & County of Honolulu. We also favor the eventual expansion of the rail system to the Honolulu International Airport and military bases, based on information in the city's Alternatives Analysis report that ridership numbers will be higher along that system alignment. And, while we can understand concerns about "viewplanes," the CBT also believes that the entire transit guideway must be elevated to ensure "zero" impact on vehicular traffic.
The CBT also would like the city to consider two initiatives not found in the AA: some form of express service during morning and afternoon "rush hours," and the use of alternative forms of energy to provide power for the rail system.
The technology panel should recommend that the city choose solely from some form of fixed rail that meets the criteria specified in the administration's RFI. The panel can provide expert opinions on each of seven (steel wheels on rail, monorail, magnetic levitation) systems -- but stop short of advocacy for any specific manufacturer. This will enable the city to issue an open Request for Proposals, leaving an equal playing field for each rail developer (and civil construction partner) to address how it will work with the city during development and throughout the life of the transit system.
The public project will be costly and the largest in the state's history; however, any short-term cost-cutting is likely to create long-term problems. All of us should be working to ensure that Honolulu gets the most for its money and develops a world-class transit system.
Frank Genadio is membership chairman of the Committee for Balanced Transportation, a nonprofit transportation advocacy group on Oahu.