Friday, August 29, 1997

Rail transit will be
revived in Honolulu

IT'S been nearly five years since the City Council, on a 5-4 vote, killed the Fasi administration's proposal for a light-rail transit system for Honolulu after years of debate and planning. Except for the widening of Kalanianaole Highway and progress on the H-3 trans-Koolau freeway, slated to open next year, little has changed since regarding Honolulu's traffic problems. No other major projects are under way or even being planned to relieve congestion. And with the economy stagnant, no politician is about to revive rail transit.

Five, perhaps 10 years from now, the situation could be different. When economic growth revives, traffic can only get worse. But there may also be more support for rail transit because people will be less willing to sit in traffic for hours.

Civic leaders will acknowledge, as Frank Fasi has long maintained, that Honolulu's ambition to become a center for the Asian-Pacific region will never be achieved without a modern transit system. It's only a matter of time before Honolulu takes another look at the idea.

It's not difficult to find support for rail transit elsewhere. In an article that appeared on this page yesterday, columnist Neal R. Peirce cited the cases of Dallas, Seattle, Denver, Salt Lake City and St. Louis -- Western cities that have new light-rail systems or are planning them. Peirce reports that the 20-mile Dallas system, which opened 14 months ago, is attracting close to 30,000 riders a day and extensions are already in the works.

One of the reasons for renewed interest in rail transit is worsening traffic congestion. The Transportation Department reported that in 50 major metropolitan areas, the per capita count of hours spent in congested traffic soared 95 percent between 1982 and 1993. Traffic delays nationwide are estimated to cost $50 billion a year.

Honolulu faces the same problem. The H-3 will ease congestion on the Pali and Likelike Highways by taking traffic that is bound to/from Windward and Leeward Oahu. But that effect will be relatively minor until many more jobs are created in Leeward Oahu, which could take decades.

Long before then the need for a light-rail transit line -- that will enable people to get to and from town by riding above the traffic -- will become too great to be ignored, despite the cost.

Makua landing

IT'S fortunate that a pacifist spoke up at the protest against the Marine landing and exercises at Makua, because he got to the real issue. Kit Glover of the American Friends Service Committee said, "An amphibious landing anywhere is the same outdated theory that problems can be solved by killing people." If you believe that military preparedness is wrong, you should certainly oppose this operation.

On the other hand, if you think the United States should maintain its military strength and that Hawaii should continue to welcome the presence of the armed forces here, in part because of its economic benefits, you should support the plan for landing at Makua Beach and firing exercises in Makua Valley.

Adm. Joseph W. Prueher, the commander in chief Pacific, has listened to the concerns of Waianae community leaders. That was undoubtedly useful, and he can be expected to seek ways to accommodate their requests. But in the end his decision must be consistent with the military's needs.

Ron Brown's son

THE decision of the son of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown to plead guilty to an election law violation is of particular interest in Hawaii because of Michael A. Brown's connection with Nora and Gene Lum, former Hawaii residents. The Lums have pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy in making $50,000 in illegal contributions to Democratic candidates during the 1994 election campaign.

Michael Brown's agreement to make a guilty plea is confirmation that he was implicated in the Lums' unsavory activities. But the full story remains to be uncovered.

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