Let voters decide how to end debate about rail transit
A Star-Bulletin/KITV survey indicates that 60 percent of Oahu residents favor development of a rail transit system.
Oahu residents remain unwavering in their support of a rail transit system, despite heated opposition from an organization demanding a vote to derail the project, according to a Star-Bulletin/KITV survey. The survey's results are nearly identical to a similar survey taken four years ago. A vote taken in the November general election would be helpful to solidify the decision to go forward with rail transit.
The telephone survey of 402 residents across the island by SMS Research showed that 60 percent would vote to continue development of the rail transit, while only 24 percent want it stopped. Naturally, rail transit is most popular in areas directly along the system's route, but majorities favor it in all other areas except in Windward. Even there a plurality of 44 percent favor it while 40 percent want the development to be stopped. The transit line is planned to extend from East Kapolei through Salt Lake to Ala Moana.
The proposed steel-on-steel technology was favored by respondents from widespread areas of the island, with the exception of Windward Oahu and the highly congested Waikiki area. Fifty-three percent of respondents from Ewa-Kapolei favored the steel-on-steel plan; 52 percent from Aiea-Pearl City; 52 percent from East Honolulu; 60 percent from Leeward; 56 percent from Central Oahu; and 74 percent from Waipahu. In a few areas, the number of respondents who are "not sure" about steel rail should spur the mayor and city transit planners to make sure more residents are informed.
A phone survey of 401 residents taken by the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2004 indicated similar support for rail. It showed that 57 percent then supported a tax increase for a rail rapid transit system. In the following session, the Legislature allowed the city to adopt a 0.5 percent surcharge on the state's 4 percent general excise tax to pay for most of the $4 billion project, which also should receive substantial federal funding. The surcharge took effect at the beginning of last year.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann has said he is willing to work with the City Council to place a City Charter amendment on the November ballot that would let voters decide once and for all whether to proceed with rail transit. The mayor said he favors including such a question in a proposed amendment that would establish a Public Transit Authority to oversee construction and eventual maintenance of the rail system.
City Councilman Charles Djou has proposed a City Charter amendment that instead would give "powers, duties and functions" to the city director of transportation services to "include establishment of a steel wheel on steel rail transit system." Djou, who has opposed the rail system, said he would vote "no" on the question, but he believes the controversy should be brought to an end.
A charter amendment could accomplish that. Unlike an ordinance, the City Charter binds future mayors and City Councils to the stated goal. Questions of a transit authority and a rail system in proposed charter amendments should be separate and nonconflicting.
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