Honolulu Rail May Stop Traffic

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BY GLORIA GARVEY – Honolulu Rail may stop traffic. But not the kind of traffic we want to stop.

A comparison to the arduous building of H-3 is apples and oranges.  A ride across H-3 inspires awe and amazement.  The building of heavy rail will provides construction jobs for a while.  And it will stop traffic.  Not the traffic it is meant to relieve, but tourism traffic. The “Neighbor Islands” will be the beneficiaries of O`ahu’s rail.


The scale of the rail is absolutely counterintuitive to Hawai`i’s “on earth” profile.  Never mind the problems with our infrastructure that won’t get fixed because of rail.  Let me be more specific:  anyone who understands Hawai`i’ would never undertake to build rail in the first place.

Hawaii is a place the whole world knows and loves. A place of staggering beauty and extraordinary gentleness.  A place that offers rest and restoration.  A place of unique heritage and culture.  A place of Aloha.

Hawa`i is a place where uncommon nature has been patient with common humanity for hundreds of years.  Though we have run over it with concrete, it still engages us with views of towering mountains, and the beautiful blue sea.  We love the thundering silence of its tradewinds.  The baking heat of its sun.

So when we who love Hawaii think about just it is what we love, I wonder how much thought has been given to the incompatibility of the steel-on-steel rail, atop massive slabs of concrete to the Hawaii we love?

Suppose the current plans for rail succeed?  You are at Electric Beach – about to enter the water and you take one last look behind you — at the rail.   Later in the day, you leave your office to walk down Bishop Street.  You will no longer be able to see the Harbor, or the shops at Aloha Tower, or even Irwin Park.

When you were in Chinatown last Saturday – never mind the view of the sea you used to love so much.  Now it is blocked by rail.  Your favorite auto shop is on Kona Street – or it was.  Now it isn’t here.  That huge Island Pool and Spa is gone, too, to make way for the rail.  And the sailmakers next door.  Even Tahiti Imports was gobbled up by eminent domain (or is it imminent domain?).

Malama Aina?  The rail will rise to eight stories in front of Ala Moana Center, head down Kapiolani Boulevard and turn up University Avenue — that’s right, right down the middle where the median with the trees used to be.   It will rise up as it crosses King Street, up and up and … over the freeway!  No more view of beautiful Manoa Valley.

What are we doing here?  We are going to spend more than $5 billion dollars on a visual blight that will do very little to solve our traffic problems.  Our visitors love this island for its beauty.  So do we.

We need to stop and look around before we commit ourselves irrevocably to heavy rail. Stand on Electric Beach and look at the mountains.  Stand on the corner of Bishop Street and look at Aloha Tower.  Better yet, cross the street and look back at the historic Dillingham Transportation Building – if rail becomes a reality, you won’t see it from Irwin Park.

We have done our beautiful islands enough harm.  Now, more than ever, we should be their keepers.  If we love Hawai`i, if we love O’ahu, if we love Honolulu, how did we say yes to rail?

Gloria Garvey is a well known branding expert and writer in Honolulu.





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