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Transit has been approved!

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Transit approved

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Source: Honolulu Advertiser

Yay, finally... now they just have to choose a system: bus vs. rail? hmmm?

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You may click on the link to see the proposed transit route video: HERE

The City Council yesterday approved a mass-transit plan for O'ahu that could go from Kalaeloa to Manoa and Waikiki and cost more than $5 billion.

After a daylong session with more twists and turns than a train heading up a mountain pass, council members voted 7-2 to designate a fixed-guideway system, using either buses or rail, that supporters say will shape and guide O'ahu's growth for generations to come.

"It's going to give us the ability and means to improve the quality of life in Honolulu for years to come," said Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who for two years has shepherded the transit project through public and political ups and downs. "It's the best Christmas present one could have asked for."

Yesterday's vote to pick a locally preferred alternative clears the way for the city to move forward on a transit project that has been considered and stalled in one form or another for more than three decades. Hannemann said he hopes to begin construction on a transit line by 2009, with a first segment open for ridership by 2012.

The decision drew enthusiastic approval from residents of traffic-clogged West O'ahu, who had feared right up until the last minute that the transit line would bypass their communities.

Instead, several council members reversed their positions on the preferred route at the 11th hour after hearing impassioned pleas from some of the 130 people who had signed up to testify.

"It was the fantastic response from the community that carried the day," said Councilman Todd Apo, who championed an alignment favored by the city administration that would start in Kapolei and wind through the developing areas of Kalaeloa and North-South Road before turning toward town.

"I'm not one to push changes down the community's throat," said Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who late in the day backed off a proposed route that would go through urban Kapolei and include a spur partly down North-South Road.

DECISION FOR LATER

In the end, council members left a decision on the final alignment up to the city administration, saying that the designated route could include both West O'ahu alignments as well as two possible routes through Salt Lake and Honolulu International Airport.

"It helps out 'Ewa and 'Ewa Beach, and it won't make that much difference for the folks coming in from Wai'anae. And it will serve more people that way," said Tesha Malama, a former 'Ewa Neighborhood Board member.

With the Kalaeloa plan in place, it would take someone in 'Ewa Beach about five minutes to drive to a transit station; under the other plan, the same person would have to drive about 35 to 45 minutes to reach the first park-and-ride facility along a transit line, she said.

If the entire route is built, it will be more than 30 miles long, include more than three dozen stations and cost at least $5 billion.

However, the bill passed yesterday includes a provision that bars the city from spending more money on the rail than it can raise through an excise tax increase, federal grants, and state and private development funds.

"We're all going to keep an eye on it to make sure it's done correctly," Apo said.

Hannemann said the city can reasonably expect to raise about $3.6 billion from the first two funding sources.

"We will continue to be prudent in our assessment of what we can afford," he said. That means the city will have to decide which portion of the line will be built first and which will have to wait until more funds become available.

Those voting in favor yesterday were City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz, Apo, Kobayashi, Romy Cachola, Nestor Garcia, Gary Okino and Rod Tam.

Opposed were East Honolulu Councilman Charles Djou and Windward Councilwoman Barbara Marshall.

DELAY FEARED

Earlier in the day, it appeared that the council might not vote at all on the transit bill before Christmas. Kobayashi's same-day introduction of the route-change proposal raised state, city and ethical questions about the need to give adequate public notice to the public before proceeding.

Concerned about those issues, council members spent almost two hours hovering with each other and meeting with corporation counsel attorneys before voting 5-4 to delay a decision until at least Tuesday but accept testimony from the more than 100 people waiting to be heard yesterday.

That testimony produced several heated exchanges between West O'ahu community leaders and Kobayashi, who said she was trying to bring the rail line closer to Fort Weaver Road while giving riders starting in Kapolei a more direct ride to town.

"We want rail and we want it now. We did our part by going to all the meetings for years telling people what we need, and now, at the 12th hour, you are doing something different. How dare you?" said Maeda Timson, chairwoman of the Makakilo/Kapo-lei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board.

Kurt Fevella, head of the 'Ewa Neighborhood Board, went toe-to-toe with Kobayashi over the need for building the full Kalaeloa alignment, also known as the green route.

"The route you're choosing is a big mistake," he said. "The green route is the one people from Makaha to 'Ewa Beach voted on. We don't want your chopped-up line, with a trunk here and stop there. We're tired of having hamburgers and french fries; we want lobster and steak."

Those exchanges helped the council revisit the earlier decision to postpone the vote and decide to proceed with a final decision yesterday.

Apo said the vote gives city planners a choice to decide whether one or the other or both lines will be included in the final alignment: "They have the ability to do both."

Councilman Gary Okino, a longtime supporter of transit, said he was happy and relieved to be finally voting on the start to transit after decades of debate. He said he studied this issue as a career city planner since the 1970s when "it was clear that this was the one answer."

Opponents of a fixed-guideway system said they were disappointed in yesterday's decision and promised to keep fighting as the project continues.

"I don't think that the public realizes that even with rail, traffic congestion will be much worse," said businessman Cliff Slater. "Right now, we are 6 percent over capacity. With rail, we will be 31 percent over" by the year 2030.

Djou, who had been the council's staunchest opponent of a rail transit proposal, said he doesn't think the traffic congestion will be eased enough by the plan and that it will cost far too much.

"If the city had an unlimited supply of money, we could think, maybe, in terms of doing rail, but the average family is paying too much in taxes as it is. I fear this will bring them to their knees," Djou said.

Marshall said she couldn't support the system as planned.

"I cannot subject our constituents to a major decision with too little information," she said.

Several council members made a point of thanking the public for participating in the year-long alternatives analysis process and waiting through several daylong meetings in the last few weeks as the council decided how to proceed.

"I can sleep good tonight knowing that we listened to them through this whole process," Tam said.

A TRANSIT HISTORY

A history of mass-transit proposals on O'ahu:

# 1982: The city abruptly ended more than five years and $6 million in planning for a billion-dollar fixed-rail commuter system when Eileen Anderson replaced Frank Fasi as mayor and raised questions about projected ridership.

# 1992: After Fasi was re-elected and spent years developing a proposal for a $1.7 billion light-rail system, the City Council refused, on a 5-4 vote, to approve a half-percentage-point increase in the state's excise tax on O'ahu that would have covered the local share of the project, causing more than $708 million in federal money earmarked for Honolulu to lapse.

# Oct. 27, 2003: State and city officials announce plans to build a $2.6 billion light-rail transit system for O'ahu. The new rail line was expected to run for 22 miles from Kapolei to Iwilei.

# Feb. 7, 2005: Members of the state House and Senate transportation committees approved similar bills that would give counties the option to add a surcharge of up to 1 percent on top of the existing 4 percent general excise tax to pay for an O'ahu mass-transit system.

# April 12, 2005: The state Senate votes to give Honolulu and Neighbor Island counties the option of adding a 0.5-percentage-point surcharge on the state's 4 percent general excise tax to pay for mass transit.

# April 29, 2005: State House and Senate negotiators agree to give counties the option of adding a 0.5-percentage-point surcharge to the state's 4 percent general excise tax. It is expected to raise as much as $150 million a year to pay for mass transit.

# May 2005: The city awards a $9.7 million contract to analyze Honolulu's mass-transit alternatives and the environmental impact of such a project to Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas. The company worked on similar studies for Honolulu's last major attempt at transit, which ended in 1992.

# May 11, 2005: City Council approves on first reading a bill that would increase the general excise tax from 4 percent to 4.5 percent to pay for O'ahu mass transit.

# July 11, 2005: Gov. Linda Lingle agrees not to veto the Legislature's bill giving counties the option to raise the excise tax after state lawmakers agree to try to change the law when they meet in regular session the following year. Lingle had said she would veto a county tax option for mass transit if the state, instead of the counties, were to collect the new tax revenue.

# Aug. 10, 2005: The City Council gives final approval to a tax increase to pay for a Honolulu mass-transit system. As a result of the 7-2 vote, the general excise tax on O'ahu will rise in 2007 from 4 percent to 4.5 percent

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On the transportation front, there's a lot of stuff going on.

1. possible light/mono rail

2. super ferry in 2007

3. 4 major inter-island airlines

as for the super ferry and the inter-island airlines, somethings got to give because that will be a lot of competition for travel between islands and i don't know how all will be able to maintain profits.

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^are any of the islands close enough to have some sort of bridge systems? or monorail?

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^No they are pretty far a part for the most part. Well, i think that Molokai, Maui and Lanai might be close enough to each other but i don't think it would ever happen.

Here are more stats about the possible routes. Check out the population projections for 2030. Especially the Downtown and Kaka'ako projected populations. I'm guessing that they are anticipating a ton more residential condos going up in those areas. Just in case you don't know, Kaka'ako is mainly a light industrial area that borders the eastern edge of downtown Honolulu. The area is going through a condo boom and has the most potential for some serious development but it will probably be at the expensive of all the industries there now.

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^seems like it covers a good spread of teh cost, is there any chance the other side gets a connected transit.

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It doesn't look like the other side of the island will get rail if it is chosen but they will still have bus service. Most of the people live on the "leeward" side, well around 760,000 of the 915,000-920,000 people that live on the island.

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Aiea and Halawa can't grow much more heh.I really hope the project doesn't get delayed and stuff like it happenned over here with the Tren Urbano system.

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Aiea and Halawa can't grow much more heh.I really hope the project doesn't get delayed and stuff like it happenned over here with the Tren Urbano system.

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On the transportation front, there's a lot of stuff going on.

1. possible light/mono rail

2. super ferry in 2007

3. 4 major inter-island airlines

as for the super ferry and the inter-island airlines, somethings got to give because that will be a lot of competition for travel between islands and i don't know how all will be able to maintain profits.

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^ i think if they can get any/all at the right prices it will help the state, and more specifically oahu.

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I think heavyrail would be pretty good imo

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^ iw oudl still love to see some modernmovel :D super bridges across the islands, atleast most :P

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It sounds cool but making those bridges would be a horrible idea imo.The bridges would cost a lot,more people using cars,airport passengers would also decline for the islands...

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I guess a monorail would be okay although i'd rather see it go underground like a subway in the city.

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I guess a monorail would be okay although i'd rather see it go underground like a subway in the city.

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Yup,same happenned here,thats why only 2 stations are underground/subway.Making it go underground is more expensive and it affects the area more...

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There was brief mention of going underground well at least near the CBD, but it would be way too costly and well city officials are too scared to something like that.

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There was brief mention of going underground well at least near the CBD, but it would be way too costly and well city officials are too scared to something like that.

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I know that they are deciding between rail and bus. rail seems to be the popular choice, but when its going to be a raised-way does it really matter? Does anyone have any photos or examples of bus systems that look and act like a rail? I am for rail, but I want to play 'devil's advocate'.

I only know of curitiba which was done in part of a long running and comprehensive master plan, nothing recent or modern.

Speaking of which, I haven't seen a master transportation/zoning plan from the city that shows how the mass transit system will work with other transportation systems/policies to reduce traffic. A lot can change in 20 years (estimated time the system will finally be complete). it does not make sense to run traffic normally for that time and expect rail, once done, to fix everything. I am however happy that we can be given more choices. My experiences using rail traveling and living around the U.S. and Europe are very positive and find it a big boost to quality of life.

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I still think raised rail is better than bus, I think it will be used a lot more also.

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It looks like Honolulu is a step closer to having rail up and running as early as 2012! However, its projected to be in two phases. The first portion of 7-10 miles running by 2012 and the remaining 10-13 miles by 2017. Here are greater details:

20 miles of rail by 2017

Source: Honolulu Advertiser

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Here's an alternate from Honolulu Star Bulletin featuring the dotted lines of the extensions proposed to be completed in 2017.

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Honolulu could see the first trains of a massive fixed-guideway transit line running within five years, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said Tuesday, as he announced his choice for the first part of the system, a 20-mile route generally from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.

Hannemann recommended that the City Council approve a $3.6 billion "minimal operable segment" of the transit line that would start near the planned University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu campus and end at Ala Moana.

He said the entire segment could be running by 2017.

That means residents on the far ends of a longer route approved by the council in December

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Council approves Salt Lake transit route

Advertiser Staff

The Honolulu City Council narrowly voted today to retain a controversial mass-transit route along Salt Lake Boulevard rather than immediately link the system to Honolulu International Airport.

The approved 20-mile route would begin near the planned University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu campus and end at Ala Moana Center.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he was very happy with the decision, even though it was not for the route he favored most.

"We didn't get our first choice; we got our second choice," he said.

The route is to become the first segment of a longer system that could eventually stretch from West Kapolei to UH-Manoa.

Today's 5-to-4 vote was the same as a preliminary decision last week, when the council unexpectedly swapped the airport link with the Salt Lake route to win a crucial swing vote from Councilman Romy Cachola.

Cachola today said he was "ecstatic" that the route had held up despite attempts to alter it yet again.

"I'm on cloud nine," Cachola said.

But Councilman Charles Djou, who opposed the route and had called for an alternative that would have stretched to University and King streets, called today's action a "train wreck" that would doom the project.

"This system will be a failure from the day it starts, because it has dropped UH-Manoa and the airport," he said. "We're clearly on the wrong track."

Hannemann said he is "very confident" that work will begin by 2009, and that the project will eventually link to UH.

Voting in favor of the route chosen today were Cachola and council members Todd Apo, Nestor Garcia, Gary Okino and Rod Tam.

Voting in opposition were Djou and members Barbara Marshall, Donovan Dela Cruz, Ann Kobayashi.

*******

So now we have a rail that doesn't go to the airport a major job center and transportation hub. Although I would rather see the rail go to the airport, I see this as an opportunity with the airport's future renovation to create a loop line, similar to other major airports like JFK that would give more options to the millions of people that use the airport each year.

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^Just sad sad. Politicians are evil especially in Hawaii. Decisions like this should go to the people not just 6-9 members that are only thinking about a vote instead of whats best for all the people. I hope people vote these fools out and start voting in fresh minds and progressive thinkers.

New proposed route :( - no airport!!!! selfish selfish

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I think most politicians are like that all over the World,but believe me,the ones over here are even worse

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