BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD – The Asia-Pacific Economic Council or APEC 2011 was recently completed at various venues on Oahu. About 20 top leaders attended including the Presidents of US and China and the Prime Ministers of Japan and Australia. It was an important and crowded event. Oahu’s experienced hospitality industry proved that they can handle major visitation challenges.
Oahu’s transportation system was no problem for the “prime” visitors because security forces blocked it off for their exclusive usage. Oahu’s citizens and visitors were inconvenienced from mildly to tremendously because of the lack of redundant routes given that Honolulu is the most lane deficient metro area in the nation.
So a fair question is this: If rail was already present, what would have it done for APEC? What would rail do for future major conventions?
Nothing! Remember that the rail dead-ends at Ala Moana Center. (More on this later.)
Meanwhile, APEC dignitaries and visitors would be appalled by the ghastly superstructure that blighted the waterfront and Ala Moana. Those more akamai would ask: Why did you build something so big for your modest city? Why are your roads so congested and the trains are almost empty?
The answer is that rail was built big to create as many temporary jobs as possible. It’s not well used because the bulk of its ridership comes from deleted bus lines, along with a few thousand white collar workers who soon enough will ask the public to pay more money to put WiFi in the rail cars.
Rail dead ends at Ala Moana Center. Over one billion dollars will be needed to backtrack to Kapiolani Boulevard to get to Waikiki. Rail will permanently blight the Convention Center and the spine of Waikiki: With the elevated rail and stations, sun will barely reach Kuhio Avenue.
Recall that the federal judges signed a letter of objection to the city: They do not want rail to use Halekauwila Street because they consider it a security breech to the nearby federal building. How can rail go by the Convention Center? If it does, Hawaii won’t be able to use it for any high-security event such as APEC, ADB, UN and other top level political and business meetings. Or it could, if we installed airport-style security at all 21 stations. Sounds ridiculous? Considering that the powers that be are pushing a $6 Billion rail system on a less than 600,000 population corridor, very little else can top this for ridiculous.
Obviously we need a different and better solution for transportation. What if we had HOT Lanes instead, that is, elevated HOT Lanes between the H1/H2 merge and Iwilei with exits at Aloha Stadium, airport, Kalihi and downtown?
With HOT Lanes, during APEC we would have problem-free travel between the H1/H2 merge and downtown regardless of freeway closures. There would be no visible blight because HOT Lanes run mostly next to H1 freeway and terminate one half mile before Honolulu’s prime waterfront.
As a bonus, HOT lanes have no part in the destruction of Aloun Farms and the prime agricultural land that is slated as a 12,000 – 15,000 residential unit Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in the Ewa plains.