Clear political jam
to advance rail transit
issue, expert says

Honolulu's next mayor must un-jam political congestion to get rail transit running, an expert on transportation planning said yesterday.

"The issue has to become a central focus of the winning candidate and be supported by the City Council," said Robert Dunphy, a senior resident fellow of the Urban Land Institute, an education and research organization. "You've got to stay with it."

Dunphy made the comments after giving the keynote address during a conference organized by the Hawaii Chapter of ULI entitled "Transportation -- A Big Picture."

The conference brought together more than 100 government officials, planners, educators, businesses and other transportation experts to discuss solutions to traffic gridlock. Panel discussions focused on different solutions such as rail transit, monorail and the land-use decisions that goes along with them.

Political indecisiveness can lead only to no solutions being found for traffic congestion here, Dunphy said.

"There are not a whole lot of places that have completely gotten their act together," Dunphy said. "It does look like Honolulu has kind of been conflicted over coming to grip with a number of these issues."

Obtaining federal funding or increased taxing authority to fund rail transit is not an insurmountable task, he said.

"If you have that clear of an agreement (between the state and city), I think, it could be sold to the federal transit administration. ... Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but the problem has taken many years to develop, it's going to take many years to fix," he said.

Dunphy said a big plus is that Hawaii has only a city-state relationship, whereas other jurisdictions have hundreds of localities involved and difficulty pulling everyone together.

"Here you've got state and city. If these guys can just kind of get their act together, it's a powerful, simple way to solve a complicated problem."

But if following this fall's election, transportation drifts down to the bottom of the priority list, he said, "you can pretty much figure that nothing's going to happen for four years."


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