Saturday, November 1, 2008

Does Rail Stimulate Long Term Urban Growth and Development?

Proponents of rail argue that billions of dollars of development will occur along a rail line and they offer multibillion dollar estimates from other cities.

Let’s take a few examples of large developments that occurred on a 6-mile corridor in Honolulu between 1992 and 2008:
  • Extensive hotel and retail renovations in Waikiki
  • Two new towers at Hilton Hawaiian Village
  • The Hawaii Convention Center
  • Ala Moana Center nearly doubled in size
  • Three colossal Nauru towers
  • Several other large buildings along Kapiolani Blvd. and in Kakaako
  • UH’s Kakaako Medical Complex
  • Aloha Tower Marketplace development
  • A couple of new towers in downtown Honolulu including First Hawaiian Bank tower, the state’s tallest building
  • Redevelopment of Dole Cannery and the large Costco complex in Iwilei.
All these and other smaller developments sum up to multi billion dollar development along the 1992 rail route. We did not build rail. But if we had, then all the developments above would be credited to it!

Lesson: You do not need rail for development and opportunities to flourish. You need a robust economy, a well-paid populous, low taxes, good quality products and services (tourism, education, local products, etc.), steady and smart leadership, and reliable infrastructure and government operations. Rail is simply a scheme to rob a million people (through taxes) in order to benefit a few hundred insiders and a few thousand workers, most of them temporary.