Friday, September 28, 2012
Transit plans collide in Honolulu mayoral race
by Lsrry Geller
Like a reality show, a bunch of people could be kicked off the island depending on which candidate prevails in Honolulu’s mayoral race. If voters prefer a new transit plan unveiled by the Cayetano campaign on Thursday, there will be no use for Italian-made rail cars nor for giant train platforms.
And the iwi may rest more easily as well.
It’s good to see an alternative plan to Mufi’s one-track rail. This morning’s Star-Advertiser has both a story and a map.
A better treatment has been posted on the Civil Beat website which, unlike the Star-Advertiser, is not locked behind a paywall. Check out Chad Blair’s story, which starts with the observation:
Instead of being a candidate running against something, Ben Cayetano is now a candidate running for something.
On Thursday the mayoral hopeful and former Hawaii governor unveiled a comprehensive traffic solution plan that includes as its centerpiece an express bus rapid transit system, or BRT.
[Civil Beat, Cayetano's Transit Plan: Back to the Future, 9/27/2012]
To me, what is refreshing is that the Cayetano plan does not appear to be so blatantly developer-driven. Civil Beat includes a link to the plan, but heck, here it is: http://voteben2012.com/rail-rapid-transit/fast/. It appears that this new plan attempts to satisfy real needs. Of course, it also raises new questions.
My only hesitation is that we citizens are presented with another fait accompli, which is French for “once again, we had no participation in creating this.”
The Cayetano plan is inherently adjustable and extensible, unlike the fixed rail plan, and so there is the option of public participation as the plan develops. Also, experimentation is easy—if something doesn’t work, or part of it needs to be changed, it is cheap and easy to do. It also promises badly needed improvements in infrastructure and technology that could improve traffic patterns.
Cayetano’s plan brings with it the possibility of improving pedestrian safety, something that rail could not do. The design of the system could also include better accommodation for bicyclists. Maybe Cayetano would even consider adding public toilets here and there. In other words, there are new possibilities.
Now we’ll enter a phase in which massive propaganda attacks can be mounted by the various interest groups. The carpenters might be pissed off, predictably. Rail cars won’t be needed, we may hear from that faction. There could be threats to sue the city. Even with legal fees, the BRT plan is so much cheaper, let ‘em sue.
And I wonder about the “steel-on-steel” election that voters made. I’m guessing that expanding bus service and digging underpasses is something that can be done anytime anyway.
One thing is certain—having an alternative plan has upped the stakes in Honolulu’s mayoral election. There are now two plans that voters can get behind. It’s no longer just a race between candidates or a vote to kill rail.
It’s possible to view the mayoral race as a selection not only which man will lead as mayor but what form of transit is best for Honolulu.
According to some the rail plan has some good points that will benefit the residents. Others point out the FAST plan by Cayetano has good points that will help us.
But when I see that the bastion of union contractors, the PRP, has spent around $2.2 million (per Civil Beat) to disparage and defeat Ben just to promote rail I smell rats. Big fat financial insider rats. Special interest rats. Nestorius Garciasus type rats.
So I'll give old Ben a shot on the basis that his plan is: cheaper, faster, sounds more realistic, more in line with national transit trends, might actually help more than a single digit percent of commuters, doesn't stick heavy trains way up in the sky without seats, bathrooms or parking spaces, and has less of a rodent odor about it. But hey, that's just me.
Interesting that the Star Ad has no coverage of the "Wrath of Inouye" story. My guess is they are timing the she coverage so Dan can have a Sunday op/ed. Perhaps that will also be when he repudiates the PRP for featuring him in their attack ads?