Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Politicians squabble over traffic now, after it’s too late

by Larry Geller

I’ve received some emails urging me to ask Gov. Cayetano about his plans for reducing traffic. The presumption, obviously, is that the train advocated by his mayoral opponents will do that.

It won’t.

And Cayetano isn’t responsible for the traffic. Emails need to be directed elsewhere to find out who was asleep on urban planning.

In fact, I’ve made the argument that the transit-related housing tracts that the development community is salivating over, because they will increase the number of cars on the roads, will increase, not decrease, traffic. As we know, land is power in Hawaii, and so developers’ greed substitutes here for any semblance of urban planning.

Now, I’m not an expert on transit. I still hold that we need to plan our communities ourselves, and that transit modalities will come out of that plan. I’m tired of the hype and the lies that power this train project and the deceit city leaders have played upon all of us.

Another of my favorite lies: that the train goes to the airport. Wait till it is built and people find out that they’ve been cheated—it doesn’t go to the airport, regardless of what they call that station. The FAA won’t allow an elevated train to go that close to the runways.

If you want to go to the airport, take a #19 or #20 bus. If the city really cared, they’d provide luggage accommodations on the bus, or use the special buses that were at one time proposed for a Honolulu transit solution.

While I’m on the airport thing, there are other transit-related solutions that have been implemented elsewhere in the distant past, but that Honolulu, still stuck in the 1960s, hasn’t gotten to. I’ll mention just one here: a City Terminal.

Imagine a terminal in Waikiki where tourists (or anyone) may bring their luggage to check in, then hop some form of transportation (buses work fine from Waikiki). The next time they see it (hopefully) will be at their destination. I suppose a variation is that a passenger just picks up the luggage again at the airport and checks it in there. The idea in Tokyo was that both the passenger and the luggage check in at the City Terminal. You’ve got a boarding pass and no luggage. Nirvana! Yay Hawaii!

That’s the way it worked in Tokyo. It was a pleasure riding to the airport without the burden of luggage. Yes, I know that the distance between downtown and Narita Airport was considerably longer than from Waikiki to Honolulu Airport, so perhaps it’s not as practical. But it’s an idea, and one that could encourage tourism.

Of course, the taxi companies wouldn’t like that a bit. But too bad, I’m just throwing this idea into the hat. You see, we ordinary citizens can have ideas also.

Given a chance, we’d certainly want to fix this town up for walking and bike riding. We might want to have more outdoor dining, real bike lanes, enforce the traffic laws, and get rid of the stupid pedestrian crossing buttons. The city doesn’t seem to care very much about anything but cars, and as we see from Honolulu’s recent ranking as the most traffic-congested city, our leaders have screwed that part up as well.

Anyone can do better. Cayetano might, someone else might. The current custodians have blown it big time, and we will have to pay to take apart the contracts they have already put in place for the train, if that is stopped. They’ll have done nothing, absolutely nothing, about controlling traffic over the years that they had to work on it.

So email Cayetano if you like. Alternatively, email Carlisle and ask how come Honolulu has such bad traffic, and what they are doing about it. How did we get to this point? Should we just let Koa Ridge, Ho`opili and new train-related tracts be built, reducing farmland and adding ever more cars to the highways? Or ask him why we set records so often for senior citizens hit and killed in crosswalks, and what (if anything) he has done about that.

Sewers, roads, pot holes, traffic—we could use a ranking of the efficiency of our city government against others. The traffic ranking didn’t happen overnight. We have had decades to work on our problems. There’s not even a plan on the table. Readers already know about the neglect of our wastewater system. I’ve written before about the waste of taxpayer money through installation of obsolete lighting technology by the city, something other cities have dealt with many years ago. I’ve even suggested that Hawaii might make use of permeable asphalt and concrete to reduce the stormwater we now collect and carry to the ocean.  Oh, have you noticed that the Natatorium is still standing? How many years has that problem gone unsolved? Can’t they do anything?

So yeah, email Cayetano. Actually, I’d love to find out if any potential candidate has any fresh ideas.

Cayetano may not be any more fond of allowing citizens to control their destiny than previous mayors, but on the other hand, he can’t be worse.


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