Thursday, December 3, 2009

Revitalize Honolulu with BRT

The news from Cleveland is that in October 2008, construction finally ended along one of major avenues. "The crumbling Euclid Avenue corridor had become a sparkling link between downtown and University Circle. The sleek buses, the slick stations and the smooth road offered a potential path to urban renewal." (1)

What spurred this renewal? A bus rapid transit, or BRT system. The same can be applied for a connection between the UH-Manoa and Honolulu's downtown. We proposed this back in 2002 (2), but the city's planners preferred to take lanes away from Kapiolani Boulevard, at a loss of two lanes along the contraflow peak direction. That BRT proposal ended when the FTA revoked its initial approval of the Harris administration proposal.

Note that King Street and Beretania Streets have the most schools, doctors offices, markets, and other small businesses per mile of arterial street in Honolulu. A BRT system will be vastly more useful (and affordable) than any rail system with mile apart stations.

If Honolulu was not drowning in its multi-billion rail system then it would be applying for these ready-to-use Federal Transit Administration special funds for BRT:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that FTA will publish a solicitation for grant applications for streetcar and bus circulators and bus facilities. The $280M in grants will be awarded in conjunction with the DOT-HUD-EPA Livability Initiative. For the urban circulator projects, a maximum amount of $25M per project will be made available. (3)

This is one of many indications that change in City Hall is the only hope for refocusing Honolulu projects on cost-effective congestion solutions and essential infrastructure fixes.