Friday, October 23, 2009


Retailers will lose a bonanza if rail passes overhead in Honolulu

by Larry Geller

A couple of days ago I promised (Grade-level transit much better for business) a video clip illustrating a fundamental shortcoming of Honolulu’s planned elevated mass transit system. In addition to the vastly increased cost over grade-level transit, the benefits to small businesses are completely missed. Sure, the big developers will profit with massive high-rent installations at the stations.

Here is a short clip from e2 Transport Portland: A Sense of Place. You can google that title for more information on the PBS series and on this video in particular.

Instead of a vibrant retail corridor, Honolulu will have blocked view planes, and under the tracks will be shadow, noise—and lost opportunity.

Certainly, train riders will have no idea what’s below them. They’ll get ads for the big station shops in their daily newspapers, but the little folks below the tracks have no chance.

e2 (e-squared) also produced podcasts to accompany their videos. Here is the one for the Portland video. You may want to download it and play it from your computer. It features my favorite architect, Peter Calthorpe. You’ll see that he (and the Portland city planners) favored designing the urban environment, not just installing expensive transit over what they had. Too bad Honolulu doesn’t have even that basic foresight.

We’ll get what developers and Mufi want for us, while the city will miss out on the numerous benefits that Portland chose for its citizens and entrepreneurs.


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