Something has to be done
Building rail better, affordably
When it came to traffic congestion and transportation infrastructure in 2008, Honolulu found itself at a crossroads and the path we chose to take was rail mass transit. Our infrastructure continues to crumble by the day and traffic seems to increase by the minute, which is precisely why we need rail. Rail will be the catalyst to upgrading and improving existing infrastructure; and an opportunity to build a system that will benefit our future generations.
I’ve listened to many people who support rail conceptually, but find fault with the way it will look Downtown, or affect mature neighborhoods from Kalihi to Kakaako. I propose we take a critical last look at station locations, architecture, visual impact and other important considerations. I support rail and believe that it can be built better. The process of building rail is and should be an evolving one that engages and involves the entire community. Building rail better means:
- A sense of place matters. I believe the transit stations in historical or unique neighborhoods should reflect what’s around them. Where we can design in a more historically or visually sensitive fashion, we should; especially in high-profile areas like the Honolulu Harbor waterfront. The engineering know-how is there if we have the will.
- Beautify as we go. We have an opportunity to improve rail transit corridors. Move utilities and get rid of poles and power lines. Improve sidewalks and plant trees — hundreds of them — under and along the spans. And provide opportunities for small businesses in corridor communities.
- Get moving on Transit Oriented Development immediately. Simply put, we are behind on TOD. The mayor should be exercising leadership and be working with the City Council in setting up rules and guidelines right now. Rail is more than just a train that will take us from point A to B. It means creating livable and walkable communities around transit stations, which will also create affordable housing and business opportunities, all of which will support greater ridership.
- Incentives for Responsible TOD Development. I will work to promote transit oriented tax exemptions and special financing that promotes a balance between residential and commercial development.
Building rail affordably means:
- One-third of the cost comes from the federal government.
- The rest comes from our excise tax, one-third of which is paid by the tourists who visit our shores.
- If you do the math, less than half of the project cost is paid locally by the residents of Oahu, and the rest comes from somewhere else. At the end of the day we have a project that moves people about more efficiently, addresses transportation equity, and yet we don’t have to pay for most of it.