Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Proposed tram
system meets
with skepticism

Critics say the trams are
'just buses' powered by
electricity that would be
'very expensive' as well

Tram plan panned
Schedule of meetings

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


The city's latest islandwide transit plan -- envisioning electrical buses but not elevated trains rolling down the center of Honolulu's major boulevards -- is meeting with some skepticism.

"These are just buses," said Cliff Slater, founder of the Committee on Sensible Transit.

While an electric tram may have some environmental advantages, "there are no functional differences between a regular bus and an electric bus," Slater said.

The $590 million plan was unveiled yesterday and will be the subject of the fourth round of Oahu Transit2K meetings that began last night.

The plan also includes a "leeward express" program that would expand the morning ZipLane to Middle Street, start an afternoon zipper lane and include access ramps to aid express buses in and out of the zipper lanes.

The tram route would be a souped-up version of the 11.8-mile CityExpress! route that travels along major thoroughfares.

City Transportation Director Cheryl Soon said trams would arrive at intervals of two to four minutes between Middle Street and downtown, and four to eight minutes along the UH and Waikiki legs. Transit stops would be between one-half and one-quarter of a mile apart. The trams would carry up to 150 people each.

The system hopes to carry 70,000 riders daily, attracting 12,600 new riders.

Initially, the city would use the high-capacity, articulated buses with bendable, organ-like mid-sections.

But Soon said the preferred technology calls for trams on tracks.

UH urban planning professor Karl Kim, who has favored an elevated rail transit line, said he does not know too much about the tram system.

"To me, for a transit system to work, it has to provide a reasonable alternative to driving," Kim said. "If it's something that is caught in traffic, at-grade and not grade-separated, it seems like a very expensive bus system."

The vehicles would have rubber tires and low floors to allow ease of entry and exit.

Working with priority signalization at intersections, the vehicles could travel up to 20 mph, Soon said. The average trip on TheBus now goes about 9 mph, she said.

Eventually, the tram could be extended to Pearlridge and Leeward Community College at the Waiawa Interchange.

The town portion of the plan would cost $361 million; the rural portion $229 million.

The city hopes to find 57 percent of the funding through state and federal funding programs, Soon said.

No new taxes would be required, she said.

Total operational costs would be $137 million.

Tram plan panned,
but a few like the idea

By Lori Tighe


They either want to hop on board or stand in its tracks. But nobody who sees the tram plan is prepared to let it just roll by without comment.

"N-O, N-O," spelled Arlene Kim Ellis, "I'm not keen on that at all. We have a very good mass transit system; it's called TheBus."

Ellis, with the League of Women Voters, viewed the plan at last night's Trans 2K meeting, the first of 10 workshops on public transit.

"Why aren't we enhancing what the bus can do? We should use what we have and not spend money on a costly rail system," she said.

"It looks very good, efficient, clean and quiet," said Michelina Mayer, a Waikiki resident, "and aesthetically, it's much nicer than TheBus system. TheBus doesn't do everything we need. There's still too many cars. If it makes people get out of their cars and use it, then it's worth it."

But if TheBus hasn't been able to lure many commuters to forsake their cars, Betty Becker said she doubts the tram will. The North Shore resident, who does volunteer work downtown, also believes the tram system will take up too much room and cost too much. And besides, Becker uses the bus and likes it.

"I'm the No. 1 fan of Express Bus A that runs on Kapiolani. It has saved me hours and hours. They can change the bus route, but the tram is permanent. To put it in, you tear the city apart. It just won't work," she said, shaking her head.

But the tram struck community activist Richard Port, former chairman of the Democratic Party, as the best plan of all he's seen. "It has no overhead wiring which would be a blight on the community. It would use underground electricity," he said.

Peter Underwood likes the tram plan, but he said it has its failings.

"How are people going to cross the street? That's the down side in all the cities that still use streetcars."

Jeffrey Mikulina, president of the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter, said if the city builds it, the people will come.

"We need to give people more options to get them from here to there," he said. "It's very positive."


Oahu Trans 2K Round 4 Meeting Schedule:

All school meetings will be in the cafeterias. For more information, call 527-6978.

Bullet Waikiki: 6:30 p.m. today at Jefferson Elementary School, 324 Kapahulu Ave.

Bullet Pearl City/Aiea/Salt Lake: 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at Aiea Elementary School, 99-370 Moanalua Road.

Bullet Kaimuki and East Honolulu: 6 p.m. Thursday at Kaimuki Intermediate School, 631 18th Ave.

Bullet Waianae: 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1 at Waianae District Park multi-purpose room, 85-601 Farrington Highway.

Bullet Kapolei/Ewa/Waipahu: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2 at James Campbell Building, Laulima Room, 1001 Kamokila Blvd.

Bullet Windward: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3 at Castle High School, 45-386 Kaneohe Bay Drive.

Bullet Mililani/Wahiawa: 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4 at Mililani Middle School, 95-1140 Lehiwa Drive.

Bullet North Shore: 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8 at Waialua Elementary School, 67-020 Waialua Beach Road.

Bullet Koolau Loa: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9 at Laie Elementary School, 55-109 Kulanui St.

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