Tuesday, January 26, 1999

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Mayor Jeremy Harris, in his State of the City address
today, suggested a transit system that would require that t
he H-1 zipper lane be used only by city buses and that
it be extended to Nimitz Highway.

Mayor offers
new transit plan

A combination of bus
and light rail offers a
third alternative

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Mayor Jeremy Harris is proposing a third alternative to the light rail vs. all-bus traffic solution -- a light rail/bus combination.

In his State of the City address today, Harris told transit officials to study and then select one of three alternatives:

bullet Building a light rail electric trolley system from Pearl City to UH-Manoa.

bullet Expanding the existing bus system.

bullet Developing a "bus rapid transit" system.

Harris said the new, third proposal grew out of the ongoing community meetings dubbed Oahu Transit2K done in conjunction with state transportation officials.

There was no immediate word on whether Gov. Ben Cayetano or the state Department of Transportation endorses the new option, which would rely heavily on restricting the state's zipper lane to city buses only.

Harris also wants the zipper lane extended to Nimitz Highway, and lanes open during morning and afternoon traffic.

The city's new articulated buses -- which come in two parts joined by a rubber middle -- would travel at 90-second intervals carrying almost the same capacity as a rail system "without the high costs," Harris said. The buses would move from Nimitz into town via bus-only lanes. Other traffic would be shifted toward a new Sand Island Parkway and a tunnel under Honolulu Harbor, concepts Harris proposed last year.

Once in town, travelers could ride a light rail trolley from downtown to the edge of Waikiki.

"It's an exciting alternative," Harris said. He also calls the plan cheaper than the Pearl City-UH rail route that experts said would cost at least $500 million.

Last year's proposal to build a transit system from the university to Aloha Stadium could be incorporated into the latest alternative as a permanent bus route.

In March, the newly renamed CityExpress Bus Service will run from Middle Street to the UH campus. The service will expand to Pearlridge Center in August. The route, considered by city bus experts as among the most used, was originally scheduled to study the feasibility of a light rail line by simulating its stop frequency and travel time.

Along with the latest transit scheme, however, is a plan to retake land use jurisdiction of the mauka Kakaako district, also outlined in Harris' speech.

Jurisdiction over planning of the area is now under the state Hawaii Community Development Corp., which has guided development of the Kakaako waterfront since 1976. Focus has now shifted to residential and transportation issues for the region, issues more suited for the city, the mayor said.

The theme of Harris' speech is "developing a new paradigm of community empowerment."

Like Cayetano, Harris spoke of making government less bureaucratic and regulated and more responsive to the public. He termed it "a shared destiny."

Through initiatives such as his 21st Century Oahu visioning program, he said, "We are creating a government that governs through incentive and inspiration rather than through restraint and regulation."

Under the program, the city will give 19 community groups $2 million each in capital improvement bond money to use as they see fit.

The $38 million set aside for the program will be a significant part of a capital improvements budget of about $300 million, roughly a quarter less than the current year.

The mayor only briefly mentions the city's looming $130 million operating budget shortfall. Details of what rates and fees will need to be adjusted won't be available until after further discussions with his blue-ribbon budget advisory committee, the City Council and city employees, he said.


3 transit alternatives

Here are Mayor Jeremy Harris' three possibilities for improving Honolulu's transit system:

bullet Light rail: A light rail electric trolley from Pearl City to the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus with circulator buses in local communities, as touted in last year's state of the city speech.

bullet More buses: Expansion of the existing bus system, as favored by rail opponents.

bullet Mixed plan: A "bus rapid transit" system from Kapolei to UH using dedicated zipper lanes for morning and evening traffic, complemented by a light electric trolley from Waikiki to downtown only, and "community circulator buses" for local travel.

More proposals by the mayor

Here are other items outlined by Mayor Jeremy Harris in his state of the city address:

bullet Privitization: Privatizing parts of the city's motor vehicle registration program by allowing new vehicle dealers and rental car companies to register vehicles and issue license plates at their shops.

bullet Police buildup: Building more police stations in Kapolei, Chinatown, East Honolulu and Ala Moana Park and training 180 new police recruits. A report last week estimated up to 200 officers may be lost to attrition, retirement and to jobs in other states.

bullet Park helpers: Creating a new "Volunteers in Parks" program using volunteers to help clean up city parks. With the budget squeeze forcing the city to leave 25 percent of its parks maintenance positions vacant, Harris also said the state has agreed to provide supervised help.

bullet Waikiki: Establishing a Waikiki business improvement district to form a public-private partnership to enhance the area's maintenance.

bullet Sewage: Investing more than $60 million in upgrading the wastewater system.

bullet Permits: Instituting a one-stop computer system the public can use to track building and other permits, dubbed POSSE.

bullet Cutting paper: Eliminating the use of paper by having all "internal paperwork" done electronically.

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