Rail transit not the only solution to traffic congestion
The rail transit project has gained the approval of most Oahu residents as a key ingredient of the island's transportation needs.
While most Oahu residents support continued development of rail transit on the island, they understand that improvements will be needed in other modes of commuting. The car will remain the favorite, and significant strides are being made to combat congestion as Honolulu's population continues to grow. Rail transit, while a key component, is not the only "solution" in the works.
The recent Star-Bulletin/KITV survey by SMS Research indicated that 19 percent of commuters take TheBus every day to work or school. That compares with 14 percent of respondents to a 2004 survey by the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization; the differences in the two surveys might reflect the rising price of gasoline, the worsening of congestion or simply the margin of error in the surveys.
In Leeward Oahu, mainly Kapolei, the population is projected to increase from 84,000 in 2005 to 186,000 in 2030. Employment in that area will grow from 25,000 to 65,000, and 32,000 new jobs will be created in Central Oahu, while downtown jobs will increase by 43,000. Commuting undoubtedly will increase in both directions.
The planning organization, comprised of elected and appointed city and state officials in compliance with a congressional mandate, points out that expansion of the city's bus system will be needed in the next two decades, focused mainly between downtown and Leeward.
Increases in roadway capacity also will be needed, it forecasts in its Oahu Regional Transportation Plan 2030, approved two years ago and modified last year. The plan also includes second means of access for Leeward and Central Oahu communities, including Makakilo, Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa and the Waianae Coast.
The plan also calls for expansion of park-and-ride lots, bus-only lanes on city streets and separate lanes for carpools and vanpools, plus full use of TheBoat. The state this month returned the minimum ridership for the ZipperLane and Nimitz contraflow lane to three occupants per vehicle, the requirement when the ZipperLane opened in 1998 until it was reduced to two occupants in 2005.
The state Department of Transportation found that allowing two-occupant vehicles to use the lane since 2005 had become so popular that the morning commute took longer in the ZipperLane than the regular lanes. Brennon T. Morioka, the state transportation director, notes that Hawaii has one of the highest carpooling rates in the country, and that should increase with gas prices.
The high approval rating for the rail transit system throughout the island is an encouraging sign that residents in neighborhoods far away from the transit line understand that they won't be stranded. City and state officials know better than to concentrate on rail transit at the expense of other transportation needs along the transit line and elsewhere on the island.