FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Catalina Viloria, left, and Cresencia Aldos wait for a westbound bus along Hotel Street as other riders board a bus headed for the Kalihi Transit Center.
Transit project technology compromise is imperative
With the transit technology selection decision at an impasse between Mayor Mufi Hannemann and members of the City Council (Star-Bulletin, April 24),
it is time for all involved parties to remember that politics is the art of the compromise. By playing hardball and jockeying for position due to personal preferences, transit proponents are playing right into the hands of the anti-rail lobby.
Their inability to come to an agreement has encouraged the well-organized and well-funded "Stop Rail Now" group to start a campaign to gain enough signatures to place a vote for an ordinance on the November ballot. The ordinance would read "Honolulu mass transit shall not include trains or rail transit." For those of us on the Ewa Plain, passage of the bill will, in effect, kill rail transit for the foreseeable future, doom us to eternal gridlock and probably severely limit future housing and retail transit-oriented developments that are counting on mass transit to boost sales. Construction contractors, unions, developers, neighborhood board members and others parroting the city's position may reap the unintended consequence of having no project at all.
The clock is now ticking on the mayor's 90-day notice. If the Council does not introduce and pass a new technology bill before July 16, the city will release its request for proposals to only suppliers of steel wheel on steel rail train systems. By that time, the anti-rail group will probably have the needed 40,000-plus signatures.
Eight people in this city can resolve the problem and take the wind out of the sails of the anti-rail group: the mayor and the seven Council members whose votes led to the signing of Ordinance 07-001 that approved a fixed guideway system between Kapolei and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The technology selection process has split the group into factions. Hannemann and Council members Todd Apo, Nestor Garcia, Gary Okino and Rod Tam want steel wheels on steel rails. Members Donovan Dela Cruz and Ann Kobayashi would like to see a form of rubber tires on concrete known as Phileas. Councilman Romy Cachola, who managed to get the system alignment through Salt Lake Boulevard, is now looking for the quietest system because his constituents are unhappy with the potential noise of steel wheels and the esthetic appearance of the guideway.
The High Speed Surface Transport elevated magnetic levitation (maglev) system is easily the quietest of the three technologies, even without the noise mitigation measures that the city now proposes for steel on steel, and its guideway would have the smallest cross-section. Little interest has been shown in other rubber tires on concrete systems or a conventional monorail.
A compromise bill limited to three technologies is urgently needed to save the transit project by showing firm commitment. The mayor and the four Council members favoring steel-on-steel must back off their position by allowing both the HSST maglev and Phileas suppliers to engage in the transit project, leaving a total of seven companies in a fair and open competition. A bill to that effect must be introduced by the above seven Council members and quickly passed through the necessary readings and the Transportation and Public Works Committee. Failure to do so not only will be detrimental to the residents of Oahu, particularly those of the "Second City," but might cause irreparable harm to a few promising political careers during the current election year. Show some aloha and act now.
Frank Genadio is a member of the mayor's Transit Solutions Advisory Committee, the OMPO Citizens Advisory Committee and the nonprofit Committee for Balanced Transportation. He lives in Makakilo.