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Monday, November 13, 2000

City Council
panel expects to
push bus project

The $1 billion transit
plan could get preliminary
approval tomorrow

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

A resolution to continue planning the city's $1 billion bus rapid-transit project is expected to receive preliminary approval from the City Council's Transportation Committee tomorrow.

Transportation Chairman Duke Bainum expects initial approval for the routing of the transit corridor at the 10 a.m. meeting. A final Council vote is set for Nov. 29.

"The decision we're going to make will shape Oahu's economic and social future for the next 30 years," Bainum said.

The routing plan sure to get the most scrutiny is for the section nicknamed the "in-town BRT," which begins at Middle Street and branches out into two segments -- one running to the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus, and the other to Waikiki.

The regional segment of the transit system will involve a continuous flow of traditional diesel buses from the H-1 corridor from Kapolei to downtown which would include an afternoon zipper lane and special on- and offramps.

The 11.6-mile in-town segment, however, calls for a "high-capacity transit spine" that could involve electric buses powered by tracks on the ground. The study said the town system would operate every two minutes during peak periods from Middle Street to downtown, and four minutes during peak time for the two branch segments.

Most of the town system would "run in a transit-way in the median of existing arterial roads," such as Kapiolani and Dillingham boulevards, but travel along the curb on one-way streets such as Kalakaua and Kuhio.

The study estimates it would take eight minutes for the vehicle to travel the 2.8 miles from Middle Street to downtown Honolulu, primarily along Dillingham Boulevard. From downtown, the UH branch would run the 3.7 miles to the Manoa campus and take about 13 minutes.

Bainum said he would like to proceed as quickly as possible since most issues have already been reviewed. "We've been looking at (an islandwide transit system) for over two years," Bainum said. "We have had over 100 community meetings regarding this plan. So this decision should come as no surprise to anyone."

The divisive debate that characterized the city's failed attempt to create a heavy rail-transit system in the early 1990s is missing this time around, he said, because the current plan has had immense community input early on.

There are critics -- including some who opposed heavy rail -- who believe the transit system would be a boondoggle, while others think the city should go back to studying a rail plan.

Those who don't believe the system is needed, Bainum said, should "get on the freeway some morning at 6 a.m. coming from Kapolei or Mililani and try telling those people that."

To those who still want rail, Bainum said: "It's over -- we made that vote seven years ago, and people gave a resounding no."

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