Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ten Plus One Reasons Why I Do Not Support The Honolulu Rail Project

  1. Among all travel options on Oahu, mass transit serves 6% of the travelers, just slightly above the U.S average of 5%. Focusing on this small piece of the pie is no way to solve the mobility problem of the 80% that drive and carpool, i.e., rail is the 1% solution because City's rosy numbers show that transit share will grow from 6% now to 7% with rail.
  2. Spending over five billion dollars for a non-solution is clearly unethical and all responsible for it are breaching their professional and fiduciary duty. As an engineering professional and past candidate for mayor I want no part in this unethical endeavor.
  3. The original system was supposed to be 34 miles through Kapolei to UH and Waikiki for about $3 Billion as shown in the headline above.  The current project starts a mile out of Kapolei and dead-ends at Ala Moana shopping center with no service to Waikiki or UH. Just 20 miles for over $5 Billion. If offering the public 41% less for a 73% higher price is not a lie then what is it?
  4. In some respects Oahu's congestion is comparable to that of the largest cities in the nation chiefly because Oahu is lane deficient.  20 miles of rail and 20 overhead stations will cause critical lane closures and result in debilitating congestion for a decade or more. For example, look at the image below and consider what traffic in downtown Honolulu will be like with Ala Moana Boulevard closed for about a year? The impact on quality of life, economy and tourism will be huge.
  5. B, C, E, 3, 9, 11, 20, 43, 53, 73, 81, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 98A, 101, 102, 103, 201, 202 are all the bus routes that will be eliminated or terminated to the nearest rail station. TheBus will be changed from a core operation to a feeder operation. This will add a lot of inconvenience and disappointment to the people that need transit service the most.
  6. Rail is high security risk. Mentally ill shooters and terrorists typically attack work, school and train station locations. Third rail systems like Honolulu's are a magnet for suicides. Train stations are a hot spot for robberies and drug trafficking.
  7. Rail makes Honolulu less resilient:It is practically certain that a major storm will hit Oahu in the next 50 years. Ten miles of reversible lanes not only will reduce congestion by over 30% for one third the cost of rail, but also they will be a critical backbone for post-storm recovery. Instead rail will be incapacitated for a prolonged period and critical resources will wasted to revive it.
  8. Cannot afford it. Hawaii is among the five worse states in the country in pension and health benefit funding liability. Future budgets will be very tight for the state. Outer islands should worry about their loss of big subsidies they receive from Oahu (i.e., they too will pay for it.)
  9. The City already has big problems finding a few million dollars for important services. Its budgets will be crushed by the union raises, the EPA sewer consent decree and the pension liabilities. Then add the rail construction cost-overruns and bankruptcy may not be far off.
  10. Out of more than 650,000 adults on Oahu only 156,000 voted YES to rail in the 2008 elections. That yielded a marginal 50.6% approval among those who bothered to vote. During elections the ratio of pro-rail lies to anti-rail information in advertising media was more than 10 to 1. Taxpayer monies were used to support rail and, indirectly, rail-supporting politicians. Calling this a "mandate" is disingenuous and the process was indeed unethical.
Last but not least, the aesthetics of the system are undesirable for the small, tropical capital of Honolulu. Here is just one before/after picture offered in city's renderings.