Thursday, May 23, 2013


Glut of condo units will impact traffic in Honolulu unless stopped

by Larry Geller

There’s nothing to be done about it except apply the brakes. While the newspaper seems to announce new condo towers rising to record heights each day now, the articles never mention that each development is accompanied by parking for its residents. Each parking stall will be occupied, adding thousands of additional cars to Honolulu’s already congested roads and highways.

Future Honolulu

From yesterday’s article in the Star-Advertiser:

The three towers are part of the first phase of a $7.5 billion Hughes Corp. master plan calling for 22 towers with up to 4,300 residential units replacing nearly all existing retail, warehouse and other buildings at Ward Centers over the next decade or more.

[Star-Advertiser p. A1, 3 condo towers planned to rise at Ward Centers, 5/22/2013]

Honolulu’s height restrictions have been thrown under the bus. Today’s article describes 700-foot towers. It also describes a multiplex cinema as part of the Blasdell complex—despite the fact that there is already a multiplex cinema nearby within easy walking distance.

Those who will occupy the towering condos typically own cars. They shop not at Ala Moana Center but at Costco and Kahala Mall, and they travel to work, to school, to UH, to the airport, and to beaches and other destinations that will not be served by Mufi’s train. The train does serve a purpose, of course: it provides an excuse to build, build, build. Rather than “Transit oriented development,” wouldn’t it be more accurate to use the term “development oriented transit?”

Ward Avenue, adjacent to Blaisdell, is already at a near-standstill during peak traffic hours each weekday. The main thoroughfare, Kapiolani Blvd., will be expected to serve not only the Blaisdell towers but the extensive development planned for Kakaako. Traffic on Nimitz Highway is bearable at present, but what effect will 4,300 new cars have?

Residents of Honolulu will suffer the consequences of added congestion, but tourism could also take a hit if gridlock becomes the norm. Why ride the sightseeing trolley if it hardly moves?

Bills passed out of the Legislature this session will make it possible for developers to make a play for the open spaces at schools and other public areas. Put it all together and Honolulu could shortly more resemble Hong Kong than, well, Honolulu.


This bares mentioning again. 70% of Oahu's population and 80% of Oahu's jobs will be within one half mile or walking distance from the rail route. This development would create a massive traffic jam if we relied on more streets, more cars and more buses to get people to and from work. The development in question is part of the master plan which incorporates rail, Transportation Oriented Developments and walkable and bike rideable pathways in Honolulu's urban core. We have a chance to meet the challenge of a growing population in a smart way or we could scrap the Oahu General Plan as the defeated mayoral candidate wanted and urban sprawl our ag lands from the central plains to the north shore. Our choice.

The proximity of jobs has been mentioned, but there's no assurance those jobs will materialize. The folks in expensive condo units won't be sweeping floors, setting tables, or even sales associates in Nordstroms.

I was addressing primarily the increase in the number of cars. People do not take a bike to Costco at present, and "Complete Streets" is also something that may or may not improve the situation.

People in Kakaako already live near their jobs in downtown, Ala Moana and Waikiki. TOD has no meaning for Kakaako except for the developers. As Larry points out, our lifestyles revolve around making lots of stops on every trip and rail doesn't fir that requirement.

From the PBN...

"D.R. Horton - Schuler Division has moved its Hawaii headquarters back into Downtown Honolulu..."

Somebody tell me why the developer does not locate in the Second City?

I can only speculate. The "second city" is actually a rural development by the James Campbell estate. People live there, but so far, jobs have been few. So is it really a city where one would want to locate?

If you want to get a pothole fixed, for example, you have to check whether the city will fix it, or depending on what street it is on, whether it is a private street and not a "city street" at all. Even the rail station doesn't go to "Kapolei" but to "East Kapolei", the other side of the golf course. Why? To increase the value of the land around the station, might be one guess. In Honolulu, they have no trouble dropping stations in middle of the city because it is their city.

But I digress. So perhaps D.R. Horton could have an issue with moving onto Campbell land. I don't know.

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