“Malia Lt Blue top Image”
Three Honolulu-based neighborhood boards met Wednesday, Aug. 20, at the Ala Wai Golf Course Club House for an informational briefing on the city’s proposed $1 billion Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT), a controversial transit system with semi exclusive and exclusive lanes the city wants to construct between now and 2007. Around 70 people attended, including at least four from the City & County of Honolulu, and many other concerned citizens and those with private transportation businesses such as taxi and bus companies and tour operators. Others were elected neighborhood board officials from the three neighborhood boards hosting the briefing: Diamond Head/Kapahulu, St. Louis Heights No. 5, and McCully/Moilili Neighborhood Boards.
Representatives from the City & County of Honolulu Department of Transportation Services pushing the BRT presented a slick power point presentation, essentially promoting the BRT as the answer to many of Oahu’s problems, several of which are completely unrelated to transportation.
Not only will the BRT solve Oahu’s traffic congestion problems, but also it will help small businesses prosper and create jobs in Hawaii, the city says in this presentation.
There was no mention of the small business owners who say the BRT will cause them great hardship and possibly put them out of business because the proposed routes will deter customers from traveling to their stores and restaurants.
There also was no mention of the number of people who will lose jobs in the private market because the city’s BRT will cause many of Hawaii’s private transportation companies to lose a substantial bit of business, or even be forced to shut down altogether and eliminate jobs.
During Wednesday’s briefing, some debate was permitted by the chair of the meeting. Cliff Slater, one of the nation’s leading transportation experts and a co-founder of The Alliance for Traffic Improvement and HonoluluTraffic.com, countered many of the city’s claims about the BRT, while others from the audience were able to ask questions of the city officials.
Through this limited debate and discussion, it became clear the city has not thought through many of the problems the BRT will cause for people traveling in Honolulu, whether by car, bus or BRT.
In fact, some of the oversights are so outlandish that they almost sound like candidates for Late Night Talk Show Host Dave Letterman’s Top 10 report if he were reviewing the city’s top 10 most outrageous oversights to date on the BRT project.
Since David Letterman wasn’t available, here’s the top 10 compiled by Hawaii Reporter:
”Number 10: No Mo’ Money”
The city is proposing to spend $1 billion just to build a fancier, supposedly faster transportation system when it cannot even afford to fund the one it already has, TheBus. TheBus, which has routes all over the island, loses $110 million a year and is 70 percent subsidized by the taxpayers. Drivers are about to go on strike because they claim they are underpaid at more than $40,000 a year. The city administration and Council have approved within the last couple of months a hike in bus fares that took effect July 1. And already they are considering another hike to cover a shortfall that is causing the city to cut back the routes to pre-2000, the year TheBus routes were beefed up and the mayor was planning to run for governor.
”Number 9: Yup, It is 13 Inches”
The city plans to add platforms all around the city that are 13 inches high so passengers can step right off the BRT onto a level surface. The platforms will be in the middle of the roadway, so passengers have to get off in the middle of major busy thoroughfares and then cross already traffic-congested streets to get to their destination.
”Number 8: A Whack Upside the Head”
TheBus drivers say the 13-inch platforms are just the right height for passengers standing there to get whacked in the head with TheBus mirrors. They say that the mirrors are at just the right angle and height to do some serious damage to the skulls of both residents and visitors, they say. As if there aren’t enough whacked people running around Oahu. But hey, what are a few less people in a town with 1 million people, and what are a few more lawsuits paid for by the taxpayers?
”Number 7: Emergency? Tough S#!@”
The city plans to cut down traffic lanes on the BRT route from 12 feet to 10 feet. Only trouble is the city’s largest emergency vehicles are 10’6″ and cannot fit properly in the 10-foot lanes. So much for racing to the scene, some of the drivers of these vehicles say.
”Number 6: Put That Bus on a Diet”
The city’s plans to cut down traffic lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet on the BRT route affects more than just emergency vehicles traveling through Honolulu — TheBus vehicles are 10’4″ across. City officials denied it would be a problem for TheBus passengers and drivers, as well as for other drivers on the road, to squeeze a steel bus larger than the lane into the lane when steel cars are flying by.
”Number 5: Tough Squeeze”
When asked at the Wednesday meeting what will happen when a 10’4″ bus and 10’6″ emergency vehicle are side by side on Oahu’s roadways narrowed because of the BRT, which include many of Honolulu’s major thoroughfares, city officials promised: “That will never happen.”
”Number 4: Shrinkage?”
The city plans to cut Kapiolani Boulevard, one of Oahu’s busiest roads, from three lanes to two in each direction. The major problem will come during peak traffic hours when city workers typically cone off lanes so four lanes move in the direction of the traffic and two against, thereby improving the traffic flow. With the dedicated lanes planned for this street, there will be only two lanes during peak traffic hours, cut down from four.
”Number 3: That Stinks”
One of Oahu’s streets most often under construction is Dillingham Boulevard in Kalihi. This busy street, which connects Kalihi’s business district to downtown Honolulu, currently has two lanes in each direction, but more often then not, construction crews have two of the four closed off because of work on sewage pipes, utilities and road paving. With the BRT taking up two more of the four lanes, business owners say they might as well shut down their businesses and walk away because their customers will never be able to get to their stores.
”Number 2: The Most Expensive 1.9 Minutes”
The city claims the BRT will shave 1.9 minutes off of a ride on TheBus from Aala Park to Waikiki. Those knowledgeable in transportation, including some who testified at the Wednesday hearing, say the 1.9 minute figure is a made up, pie-in-the-sky number. No matter, for a reported 1.9 minutes, taxpayers will pay $228 million just to start.
”Number 1: Traffic Gridlock Lockdown”
Traffic will actually get worse because people will not give up their cars as the city hopes through this social engineering plan. Yet the city, instead of building new lanes for dedication to the BRT, will take away lanes, thus doubling and tripling the traffic congestion, increasing road rage and generally just outraging Oahu’s biggest voting base — the more than 400,000 registered drivers.
”The good news:” A wise entrepreneur can start making those stress squeeze balls, featuring the face of Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris, and walk car to car during peak traffic times — sure to be worse gridlock than ever imagined — selling them by the handful to frustrated drivers. Talk about a hot commodity. Then Oahu’s drivers, who will have awokened to Harris’ BRT nightmare a little too late to save $1 billion and a great deal of stress, will give a whole new meaning to the saying “putting the squeeze on” the mayor.
”’Reach Malia Zimmerman, editor and president of Hawaii Reporter, at:”’ mailto:Malia@HawaiiReporter.com