Posted by: loomisisc | December 2, 2009

New Support for Elevated Rail in Honolulu

The Dubai Metro is a recent example of an elevated rail system.

From Today’s Star Bulletin, a commentary in support of elevated rail:

Rail transit: Elevated train promises Honolulu a better future

By Hannah Miyamoto

Now that the federal government has allowed the Honolulu rail transit project to enter preliminary design, long-suffering Ewa-side residents know that construction will start in just months.

Unfortunately, opponents – some of whom also sued to stop bus rapid transit – insist on stalling this vital project. Even Gov. Linda Lingle says she will “take her time” studying the environmental impact statement before signing off.

The rail and feeder bus system plan has received ample study and debate, and extended delay will cost taxpayers millions of dollars, without any public benefit. No useful “new ideas” have been raised since the City Council set the train route in January, and the suggested alternatives would not adequately reduce the problems the elevated rail line will address; all would cause more problems than they would solve.

Look behind the cool, professional words of the Draft EIS: It says that you, I and our children have two futures. Start with the one without rail.

In 2030, if rail is not built, although island residents will drive only 17 percent more than now, they will waste 43 percent more time in traffic. Where H-1 passes Kapolei, morning traffic will be twice as heavy as now, in both directions.

On H-1 through Pearl City, the state’s busiest road, traffic will rise 15-20 percent. Our transportation arteries will suffer a heart attack.

In the other future, if rail is built, traffic delays for island drivers in 2030 will be four times less than if rail is not built, and morning H-1 traffic through Pearl City will increase only 9-12 percent from current levels.

By relieving the most congested roads, rail will have a major impact on congestion, even though it will only slightly reduce the amount of driving on Oahu.

Island residents and visitors will use the train 95,000 times every weekday, increasing transit ridership in Oahu 21 percent more than if no train is built. Furthermore, every two people attracted to the train will attract almost one more rider to the bus. Overall, 68 percent of the train riders will ride a bus to their station, and 17 percent will walk; only 14 percent of rail riders will park at the station or get dropped off by someone else.

More island residents will choose transit because the average speed (rail and bus) will rise to 16.5 mph, faster than the

current national average for light rail transit. Even people living off the rail line will benefit. For example, transit riders in Mililani will reach downtown 45 minutes faster than now, while riders in Ewa will arrive almost half an hour sooner. Trips from Waipahu to Waikiki will take about half the time.

In a future without a rail system, people in Honolulu will board a bus 314,000 times daily, and it will cost almost $3.60 to provide each ride. In a future with rail, people will board a bus or train 450,000 times daily, at less than $3.25 per ride.

Some think the elevated rail project should be slowed to check whether an at-grade rail line would be better. There is no need, because building a partly street-level line, as the architects association suggests, would be almost like not building any rail system.

The big problem is that the architects want to run tracks along the street where an elevated track will speed travel the most: from Middle Street in Kalihi to downtown and Ala Moana.

Even the architects admit that an at-grade light rail train will take 23 minutes to cross that segment, while the elevated train will take only 12 minutes. Since the Route C express bus connects these points in 26 minutes or less now, an at-grade rail line will not attract enough new riders to justify building it.

Furthermore, even if a streetcar went as fast as the elevated train, the congestion from taking away street lanes, or the loss of historic buildings needed to widen streets, would not justify building an at-grade line.

We and our children face one of two futures: with elevated rail, or without elevated rail. Practically speaking, there is no third choice. Now is the time to seize our opportunities and make the right choice: the elevated rail transit line from Kapolei to Ala Moana.

Hannah Miyamoto has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, specializing in transportation, from the University of Minnesota. She led the Sierra Club in developing policies on transportation, land use and the environment in the early 1990s and now is a Ph.D. student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: