Friday, May 30, 2008


Development Oriented Transit--why a Massachusetts company has more say over Honolulu transit than you do

by Larry Geller

Michael Steiner, executive director of Citizens for Fair Valuation, makes a good case in his op-ed today why Councilman Romy Cachola's call for a transit stop in Mapunapuna serves developer interests at the expense of those of us who live here. And in this case, the beneficiary would be HRPT, a Massachusetts company.

With all due respect to City Councilman Romy Cachola, his call for a transit stop in Mapunapuna (Island Voices, May 20) is premature. While this move may fit the priorities of Massachusetts-based HRPT, which owns most of the land in the area, and while it is certainly intended to increase the long-term value of HRPT's landholdings and the magnitude of its income from Hawai'i, it does not take into account the economic realities of many local businesses in the area.

A May 14 front-page story in The Advertiser described HRPT's offer to the City Council to locate a transit stop on its property. Bradford Leach, vice president of the Pacific region for HRPT, is quoted as saying, "We're willing to spend our own money, and our own time and our own costs in order to assist the city in any way." In reality, HRPT will first collect this money from its lessees, and it is those lessees we should be concerned about.
Let's not rush into a development that will enhance the landowner's interest without addressing the concerns of the local businesses about the possibility of economic instability and decline inherent in HRPT's unreasonable rent demands.

In a nutshell, local businesses will lose if the City Council warps transit plans yet again, for the benefit of this out-of-state company.

Let's cut to the chase here: This transit system is not being built for the benefit of potential riders. In testimony after testimony before the City Council, I heard people say that they were never listened to at public meetings. You may have seen letters to the editor with the same complaint. Yet, when this out-of-state company wants a station, Mr. Cachola, at least, seems willing to jump for them.

I may sound like a broken record, but I think this transit plan needs to be stopped. It isn't a plan. We have not been allowed to do the planning. And no, I don't favor HOT lanes as pushed by the Reason Foundation (another out-of-state actor in the transit game).

How is this for a concrete suggestion:

  1. find a petition to sign to help get the question on the ballot
  2. let's see what the voters think about stopping the city's reckless (IMHO) transit project, and if it passes, then
  3. take a small fraction of the transit tax money to hire a firm to assist citizens in planning Oahu for the future, which would include transit. Sure, they should also consider HOT lanes. Everything should be on the table, and everyone should be sitting there.

The money the state legislature ripped off from the tax collection could be used for the planning effort. Legislators have a moral responsibility (stop laughing!) to use that money as it was intended, not for something else (you're still laughing!).

Yes, I suggest that citizens control the planning process. Our city government, both the City Council and the Mayor, have sided with developers over the needs of taxpayers, and that should stop (hey, c'mon, I'm not making a joke).

Let the Massachusetts company, the Stop Rail Now folks, their friends at Reason Foundation, and even Mufi Hannemann make their cases before a citizens group, assisted by competent city planners. Give the process the time it takes to develop the best consensus possible. Listen to people in each community. If there is no good reason not to, incorporate their suggestions.

This may be radical, but since there are firms with track records in doing this, I propose that we not use the same UH planners who brought us what passes for "urban planning" here, nor the folks who designed Aloha Stadium or the other one where fans couldn't see home plate from the stands.

If we are looking for competence, we'll have to make sure that current city and state departments of transportation not have a dominant voice in the process either. Sorry, folks, but you've been responsible for the mess we have now, whether it's potholes, pedestrians being killed in record numbers, or the lack of bike lanes. You're responsible for too-short crosswalk timing and for the lack of paint on the roads. This dismal performance shouldn't give you a commanding voice in future plans. No way.

We have enough tax money collected that we can afford to hire someone competent to assist us.

So find a petition to sign. Although I don't agree that HOT lanes are the solution, the folks at are doing us a service by promoting this citizens initiative. This is something we can thank them for. Consider signing one yourself, and you can even download a petition and get your family and friends who agree, to sign as well. Make sure that your signature is clear and verifiable so it won't be thrown out.

With everyone's help, we citizens have the last laugh on this.

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Do you guys even have a planning department and commission over there? I can't seem to remember hearing about them in the newspapers much- only mayors and council members posturing and giving edicts.

I suppose the only way to have a grassroots planning process is to fund it yourself.

First of all there is a grassroots petition for people to sign which would, in essence, not have any rail system. But if not rail then what? Secondly, there has been many. many, many public meeting throughout the corridor. many of the people who spoke at the Council hearings saying that there was no public oureach are teid together in organizations that don't want rail in the first place. Third, if the developer themselves want to pay for a station out of their pockets (if that is the case) and the City doesn't have to pay for an extra station why is that bad? I actually don't know about the discussion that have been happening but in many areas private companies finance stations on their property to benefit themselves.

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