Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Honolulu's proposed rail transit

Honolulu HI - A commentary piece in the Hawaii Reporter regarding the proposed rail transit line brings up a few points that need further discussion.

Hawaii State Representative Colleen Meyer (R) questions the recent vote by the Honolulu City Council on their desire to jump on the Light Rail Transit (LRT) bandwagon. The main issues? The cost as well as if it is really needed.

Rep. Meyer correctly states that public transit usage is declining. While there has been a recent increase in ridership over the past couple of years, this is mostly due to higher fuel costs and the spike of ridership is already declining nationwide.

Also mentioned in the article was the point that LRT is not exactly the choice of the people living there. A survey of residents show 53% said they would not use the line. While surveys leave a lot to the imagination, the survey was commission by the City and County of Hawaii, who were pushing for the line, and it didn't come back exactly as they had hoped but they still pushed the vote through.

Rep. Meyers suggested that the residents should have a chance to vote the project up or down. There's little chance of that happening. Rail activists have done a good job spreading the word of all the "benefits" of having an expensive toy built. The residents won't believe that LRT isn't all that was promised to them until after the line is built and by then it's too late.

While there are places LRT will work well, it won't work well everywhere. My major problem with LRT are mostly the arguments made by the proponents. False promises of good times ahead if only you support building the line. I have heard the same arguments made for every rail line proposed. The proponents gloss over or ignore any problems with having an LRT line such as the cost, effects on the rest of the transit system and how much it will cost the general public. All you hear is of economic boom times and the massive development that will occur if only you support building the line.

Rail proponents from all walks of life are so desperate to get LRT lines slapped down all over North America that most refuse to even question the proposals. Questions such as, "Why is the line being proposed where it isn't needed?" and "How are you going to pay to run this line when you are already screaming about fare hikes and route cuts for your transit system?", are rarely asked by rail proponents.

Rep. Meyers has a better handle on what is happening than those that have control of the project. A rare trait in a politician these days. The whole proposal needs to be looked at again and by a neutral party that has no interest one way or the other. Traffic congestion will not be eliminated or reduced by Honolulu's multi-billion dollar LRT line. One of the major selling points to the residents is that this rail line will solve the traffic issues.

The general public need hard facts, not activist and political spin, to better understand what is happening. Pro-LRT spin is among the top for being smooth and effective among the general public. Those who dare question LRT proposals are routinely shouted down as being closed minded and being against improving the "quality of life".

A Laurel goes out to Hawaii State Representative Colleen Meyers (R) for questioning this rather ill-conceived plan.

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