State, city prepare
new plans for transit

Harris' proposal for
bus rapid transit draws
bipartisan criticism

The state will unveil on Monday a combination of light rail, a bus system and road changes, including an elevated highway, to combat Oahu traffic congestion.

City & County of Honolulu

"There is no silver bullet," state Transportation Director Rodney Haraga said. "One transportation mode is not going to solve our problem."

Haraga said details will be released after the plan is presented to Gov. Linda Lingle and members of a city and state task force looking for solutions to the island's traffic woes.

Haraga's comments came on the same day a bipartisan group of state and city lawmakers and community members called on Mayor Jeremy Harris to dump his bus rapid transit system, or BRT.

The debate over the system also comes as the City Council's transportation committee takes up a resolution today calling for the development of a fixed-rail transit plan, more than 10 years after a Council vote killed the last rail plan.

"I think now is the apt time that we put the brakes on the bus rapid transit program and get the city and state government to work together on a common solution to our mass transit programs," said Councilman Charles Djou.

But the mayor said he will not stop the first phase of his plan that will take hybrid gas-and-electric express buses from downtown through Kakaako and end in Waikiki.

"It seems that every time we get ready to do something constructive, a number of politicians in this town get afraid, and they want to stop things to study them longer," Harris said. "I'm here to tell you 35 years of study is enough. It's time we took some action, and that's exactly what we intend to do."

Controversial aspects of the bus plan -- taking away lanes on Kapiolani and Dillingham boulevards for exclusive use -- are not part of a $50 million first phase that is scheduled to begin construction later this year. Harris said the first phase will include sidewalk improvements, landscaping, underground utilities, bus stop upgrades and the addition of extra lanes on Ala Moana and Kalia Road for semiexclusive use by buses.

Haraga, meanwhile, said an in-town bus system is part of the plan he will present to the task force.

"We have to go into a multimodal system, which would include mass transit of some form, which would be the light rail. It will include some type of highway improvements or modifications, and it will include a bus system," Haraga said.

"We know that whether you call it BRT, whether you call it transit, whether you call it whatever, we still know that you need that because even if ... everybody agrees that light rail is one of the viable solutions or modes, you still need to distribute folks downtown or in town, and the most viable alternative then would be buses."

A rail proponent, Harris also said his BRT plan does not preclude a rail system, but it would take six to 10 years to come to fruition, while the BRT can be implemented now. He said the City Council has already given the green light for the first phase, and final federal approval is pending.

Lingle said she has not yet been briefed by Haraga.

"I'm interested to see how he puts the pieces together," Lingle said. "One thing the (task force) is unanimous about ... we don't need any more studies, we just need some decisions to be made, take those decisions to the public to determine their level of interest or opposition and move forward."

The state is trying to estimate what a system would cost, Haraga said.

"We're trying to get a better handle on what it is, that if we were to go with light rail, if we were to go with a Nimitz (Highway) flyover or whatever it is, we need to get a handle on the cost because my question is, How are we going to pay for it?" Haraga said.

Djou was among several state and city legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, who represent the areas affected by the BRT and who signed a petition opposing it.

"Should we keep putting money into BRT if it's not going to solve our problems? And we're saying, 'Stop, let's take a look, let's find the correct solution.'" said Council Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi, who along with Djou and Councilman Rod Tam have introduced a resolution calling for the city administration to delay the project.


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