Expensive, polluting rail isn’t Oahu’s best option
Local bank economists and real estate developers openly admit that rail is about property development - not a transportation solution.
The Hannemann Committee ad in both dailies on Sunday was a diversionary tactic to deflect public attention away from important facts and issues:
» Rail is the most expensive, highest subsidized, most environmentally insensitive, least accessible and most crime-ridden of all transit systems.
» The open-ended subsidies required for rail and transit-oriented developments place enormous financial liabilities on present and future generations.
Dallas, Denver, San Diego, Orange County and Tampa use toll systems to deliver more carrying capacity much sooner and cheaper than rail.
Potholes are symbolic of the mayor's failure to properly maintain and reconstruct our roads. Our infrastructure has deteriorated to unacceptable levels. Pavement management, sewer treatment and solid waste management will require billions to bring them to a barely acceptable state.
And then there is traffic congestion that wastes time, fuel and adds to pollution. The mayor ridicules the suggestion of an elevated, reversible transit freeway to and from West Oahu that can offer more traffic relief than rail. Transit riders will enjoy shorter travel times from speeds of 60 mph for free. Under a toll system, regular motorists will fill unused spaces by paying a moderate toll to cover the cost of the highway's construction and maintenance. Dallas, Denver, San Diego, Orange County and Tampa use this concept successfully - to deliver more carrying capacity much sooner and cheaper than rail.
Consumers prize personal independence, convenience, privacy and security. Automobiles serve diverse and indispensable uses. Buses carry more passengers than trains and planes combined. Taxis deliver passengers anytime, anyplace, when and where buses and trains don't go, and also complement bus and train service.
Rail is an energy hog and pollutes just as much during the 16 hours that it runs near empty as in the four hours it supposedly carries commuters. Furthermore, research shows that only 24 percent of riders in L.A. trains are former solo drivers. So in the peak hour, the train will carry roughly 5,000 people (of whom 2,000 will be standees), but it might remove only 1,250 vehicles from the entire corridor. That is a pittance that will quickly be replaced by about 2,000 new homes. In reality, many more homes are planned for the Ewa plain, so in 2030 congestion with rail will be much worse than it is today.
The community needs open public discussions of the various proposals. The mayor should not abuse the concerned and knowledgeable citizens whose views differ from his.
This commentary was submitted by the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance, whose officers include: Panos D. Prevedouros, president (professor of civil engineering, University of Hawaii-Manoa); Reg White, vice president (vice president of project development, Paradise Cruises); Dale Evans, chairwoman (CEO, Charley's Taxi); and Lawson Teshima, vice chairman (CFO, Kobayashi Travel).