Wednesday, January 27, 1999

Mayor's Transit Initiative

Harris’ transit
plan gets tepid

Key parts of the mayor's
latest bus-rail proposal are
met with skepticism

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Mayor Jeremy Harris' idea for a hybrid "bus rapid transit" is getting mixed reviews.

Marilyn Kali, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, is skeptical. Her boss, Transportation Director Kazu Hayashida, said the city should study it.

City Council members were also split, although most said they would wait for the results of a study.

The plan calls for express buses to have exclusive use of the state's zipper lane, which runs on the H-1 freeway from Waipahu to Pearl Harbor during peak morning traffic.

It also calls for a new westbound zipper lane during the evening hours.

The two zipper lanes would connect buses in rural neighborhoods on one end with a new 2.5-mile downtown light-rail electric trolley on the other.

Harris proposed the plan yesterday during his State of the City address as the latest of three proposals to deal with Oahu's traffic problems.

Other alternatives are to build a 10-mile rail system from Halawa to Moiliili and to add buses.

Harris said a study would determine by July 1 what action the city should take.

Kali said state Department of Transportation engineers do not think it would be feasible to put in a westbound zipper lane. One lane would be needed to house the ziplinks, and the median could not be used because bridge columns would be in the way, she said.

Without building a new lane, that would eliminate two existing eastbound lanes during peak afternoon traffic, leaving only three lanes, which would not be enough to handle afternoon eastbound traffic, she said.

The zipper lane works for eastbound traffic in the morning only because there are seven cars traveling east to every three going west, she said.

The state is constructing a new westbound lane in the Aiea-Pearl City region and is looking at extending that lane to the H-1/H-2 interchange, Kali said.

"We think this additional lane will help, 24 hours a day," she said.

Kali said state transportation officials are also dubious about the existing zipper lane being dedicated to city buses.

"If the city had enough buses to make 2,500 trips in the morning, then that would be fine," Kali said. "But it would be underutilized if it was a bus-only lane. Right now, they're running 60 to 70."

Hayashida said that despite the reservations raised by Kali, "right now is not the time for details. Let them go study it."

Harris, after his speech, said Gov. Ben Cayetano seemed open to the idea of using more buses. The mayor noted he is not endorsing any option until transportation experts complete a study.

Cliff Slater, a longtime rail opponent, agreed with Kali that the city could not put up enough buses and passengers on the road to justify bus-only zipper lanes.

Several Council members said they don't understand why Harris spent so much of his speech on transit and other capital improvements but made only brief remarks on the city's projected $130 million shortfall.

"I would have liked for him to spend two-thirds of his time talking about the budget," said Council Chairman Mufi Hannemann.

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