Sunday, February 6, 2011

Rail Will Cost About $3 Billion

I would like to preserve this gem from August 19, 2006 for historical purposes because The Honolulu Advertiser is history and its server may disappear. Please read it and then take a look at my four 2011 updates at the end.



As the City and County of Honolulu proceeds with its analysis of O'ahu's transportation future and holds community meetings to solicit public input, the cost of a proposed fixed guideway is a common topic of discussion.

As is their role, the professional planners and engineers involved in this Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project are gathering data, making analyses and evaluations, and preparing recommendations for the City Council, which will make the final selection of a transit alternative later this year. The planners and engineers are envisioning a system where money is not a primary factor, a transit network that accommodates all needs well into the future, a world-class fixed guideway that rivals those of the great cities around the world.

That is not the world in which we live. It is my responsibility to balance needs with resources. This has meant that we've had to make some tough fiscal decisions over the past year-and-a-half, foregoing the nice-to-have for the need-to-have.

The transit system the city ultimately will support will meet our immediate needs and our budget, estimated at around $3 billion. This is called a "minimal operable system" in the parlance of transportation engineering. Yes, a multifaceted, multimodal approach to solving our growing traffic mess falls within the need-to-have, but I want to be careful that we do not exceed our financial limits.

If revenues from the general excise tax surcharge provide more money [1] for our transportation coffers, or if private partnerships [2] generate a major infusion of cash, or if we receive any financial windfalls [3] for mass transit, then we can consider spending more money to expand the system.

Until then, I will continue to insist that we live within our means.[4]

Mufi Hannemann


I inserted four notes in the concluding part to provide 2011 updates:

[1] The surcharge provided over $100 million LESS than expected between 2007 and 2011 and as a result TheBus budget was raided to sore up the "budget."

[2] Hannemann knew he was kidding with this one. No private monies are available for rail transit. Rail projects are money pits. On the contrary, developers are expecting tax breaks (which means taxpayer monies) to develop around stations.

[3] Here the expectations went to the wild side. Windfalls were expected while the 2011 Congress is all about cuts.

[4] The current version of living within our means (as Hannemann put it), or getting our house in order (as Carlisle put it) is furloughing the City's own employees, operating under an EPA mandate that is expected to cost well over $4 Billion, and at the same time pursuing a train that has doubled in cost!

By the way, the Minimum Operating Segment that the letter refers to is now what we present as the planned 20-mile system from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, the first six miles of which is the train to nowhere starting over half a mile outside Kapolei and ending in Pearl Highlands, going through Oahu's last prime agricultural lands. This video produced by the City shows the destruction of agriculture and the prevailing low densities that are inappropriate for elevated heavy rail. The picture below shows the destruction of Waipahu.