If Elected Honolulu Mayor, I Will Not Support the Honolulu Rail Project

IS IT A CRIME? Former Gov. Ben Cayetano convinced campaign spending commissioners to refer his complaint against a super PAC that targeted him during the 2012 election to the prosecutor for further criminal action
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Ben Cayetano, former Hawaii Governor and candidate for Honolulu Mayor

BY FORMER GOV. BEN CAYETANO – Let me be clear with Mr. Peter Rogoff and the Federal Transit Administration: If I am elected, I will not support the proposed elevated, steel on steel rail system that will deface our city and cost at least $7 billion or more. I will explore what many cities throughout the US have turned to: bus rapid transit and/or at grade light rail.

As Mr. Rogoff himself has said publicly: rail is not for every city. Mr. Rogoff and the FTA know that no city comparable to Honolulu in size has built or is planning to build an elevated, steel on steel rail system. The last two cities — with populations much larger than Oahu — that built elevated, steel on steel heavy rail were Miami (30 years ago) and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Both are financial disasters — San Juan’s “Tren Urbano” built by Parsons Brinkerhoff (2005) has been an embarassment for the FTA and the subject of Congressional inquiry.


At $250 million per mile, the City’s rail project is the most expensive rail system per capita in the United States. There are only 950,000 residents who live on Oahu, the population is forecasted to grow by only 100,000 by 2030. It is unconscionable to saddle such a small tax base with the huge costs of rail while they are literally compelled to pay billions to upgrade the city’s neglected infrastructure: its aging and neglected sewer and water systems and pot hole filled roads that rival that of third world countries.

Mr. Rogoff should heed the words of the FTA staffers who warned about the City’s “public manipulation” and criticized the city for rushing construction by setting unreasonable and impractical schedules. The City’s multi-million dollar public relations campaign misled the public into believing rail would reduce traffic congestion. Yet FTA disagreed and has publicly stated in its record of decision that rail will not reduce traffic congestion. City engineers and consultants admit this in the FEIS but said nothing while the politicians continued to lie and hype rail to the public.

Indeed, a 2009 Honolulu Advertiser poll concluded that 73% of the public believed rail would reduce traffic congestion and even Senator Inouye believed it would, saying it repeatedly in his public remarks. Two recent polls revealed that the support for rail has made a dramatic turn around. A poll by the StarAdvertiser concluded that 53% of the public no longer support rail, a poll by Civil Beat showed 55% oppose rail. Only 34% support rail.

Mr. Rogoff and the FTA should ask themselves why, after the city spent more than $5 million to promote rail in addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by pro-rail advocates, has the tide of public opinion turned against rail? I suggest its because the public now has more information about the rail project and the majority sees through the City’s publication relations campaign of lies and hype. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 28 years in public office it is that the public is smarter than most politicians think.

I have studied rail project ever since I served as chairman of the transportation committee in the state legislature in 1974. I served in that capacity for six of my twelve years as a state legislator. I believe if Honolulu’s proposed rail system is ever built, it will take its place along Miami and San Juan’s Tren Urbano as the FTA’s biggest failures.


Ben Cayetano served in the state legislature and as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor and governor. He is now a candidate for Honolulu mayor.





  1. Many have repeated the same lies hoping the Citizen would not question what was happening. When honest grassroots politicians for the people of the City and County as myself, began to see through the veil of lies, having had citizens report the lack of services they experienced, then checking into the same citizen complaints were equally becoming smeared and ignored when questions and reports were given to the State DOT people, denied same needed and qualifying services, I began to see through this gigantic veil of lies wrapped tightly around many agencies and involving many politicians as well!
    My own response was to file a FTA complaint for lack of services and the requirement people with disabilities forego Civil Rights protections to get HandiVan services.
    Having had several(5) Constituents previously getting HandiVan services or denied altogether, either moved to TOD services or stranded, they were increasingly shut-in and stranded in Kalihi Valley. Other adults in the elderly or disabled communities needing paratransit services from HandiVan were also getting denied services. I needed services due to losing my volunteer ride, and changes on theBus that made it difficult for me to get seating I required for my disability.
    I contacted Mr. Wayne Yoshioka in December 2011 about both concerns. My disability is very hidden and because I too needed paratransit services was alarmed at the reports I was receiving from people with disabilities in the Valley. I was getting dismayed and concerned by these reports and noted that I would be applying for services because of my own recent experiences with theBus services in October and had lost my volunteer rides due to gasoline prices. Explaining to Mr. Yoshioka the family in the area that was providing most of my transportation could no longer incur the costs making it necessary for me to apply for paratransit services with HandiVan, and when I have my meeting with HandiVan I would also like to touch on the topics of concern about the constituents that are being shut-in with denials from HandiVan, as TOD paratransit is not meeting all their needs. Mr. Yoshioka assured me that I could touch on these topics at my application meeting with the HandiVan manager, Mr. Sean Powers. What occurred at that meeting is far different than what I expected. Not receiving the approval for services I needed at that meeting and having taken in the brain xrays I have to show proof that I do not have a full brain due to surgery for epilepsy, performed at Queens Hospital in 2002, yet still seizure therefore need seating in the disability section so as to ward off inappropriate public assistance such as CPR for a complex partial seizure, or let the bus operator intervene and call for assistance if a more severe form of seizure dictates the intervention of EMS, and I seizure immediately (within 2 blocks) when forced to stand on a moving bus, therefore I would require seating. I did not receive services and was told to come back to apply, the only concerns that were taken at my meeting on 12/28/11 were those of being the Vice Chair of Kalihi Valley Neighborhood Board. Had I known I could not apply at the time of my meeting with Sean Powers on 12/28/11, I would not have taken my brain MRI to that meeting! In January I was denied seating on route #7 and route #2. Forced to stand both times and incur seizures, I have now additional medical problems related to those seizures on theBus. I did not receive a letter of denial of service right a way so I filed an FTA complaint about the entire process, lack of services, what is expected for and from persons with disabilities, and raised the issue of no denial at the Neighborhood Board meeting. I did finally receive my letter of denial, thanks to Mr. Powers after returning to HandiVan offices on 2/3/12. I did not go through the stopwatch timed “functional” physical exam required to gauge “balance,gait, and cognition” nor did I relinquish my medical confidentiality to these HandiVan employees that have no medical licensure. I do not do these things to get my groceries at the grocery store from employees there that have no medical licensure. I do not want to drive the HandiVan! I want a ride on public transportation that I am qualified for as a person with a disability. My Medical Doctors will be glad to file a form approved by HandiVan to do so. The Handivan stopped doing that in October 2011. The HandiVan went to this new system of stopwatch timing people on an obstacle course around the First Insurance building and having people sign off on complete medical confidentiality. This is more than what it takes for DRIVERS in the State to get their driver’s licenses. I only want public transportation. Federal law dictates I only need to have a problem RIDING fixed route transit (the bus) to get paratransit. I do. I have had seizures at bus stops, on buses, even robbed at a bus stop while in a seizure. But still yet, denied HandiVan service because I refuse to allow their dog and pony show to continue. I am standing up for the Civil Rights of our Elderly and Disabled Communities to continue to have their doctors make these decisions. In that vein, I read that denial from HandiVan at the Kalihi Valley Neighborhood Board Meeting. If we are to have RAIL, it will not be on the backs of the elderly and disabled communities!! These communities need paratransit before we put in any RAIL!! I still have not received any answer on my FTA complaint. Without groceries, missed doctors appointments, I was also shut-in without transportation. I lived the life of my constituents that were equally shut-in. I would not expect any less of them than I would be willing to give or live myself. RAIL has got to go, and we should be able to keep the transportation dollars we need as a STATE because we need it!!
    Because my health was an issue of great concern, as was immediate transportation access, my mother and sister Lehua, both live in Reno, mobilized and we concertedly worked to have me move to the safer and transportation accessible environment of Reno, before the City and County of Honolulu would kill me. Without public access to food, medical services through the paratransit transportation services I am entitled to, no FTA resolution, no political assistance, no legal assistance although I did try and apply, no APS assistance, I was forced to seek asylum if I was to live. I completed my move arriving in Reno, NV on 6-5-12. I will miss my home, friends and family in Hawaii, my Constituents that trusted me to do the right thing for them. I hope I am. I wish all of the elderly and disabled people in Hawaii will be able to Ride Para transportation in the future, when and if needed, without being publicly viewed as SUSPECT that would require a relinquishment of Civil Rights, any physical-functional exam performed by someone other than someone holding a valid and State issued medical licensure to perform such an exam! The elderly and disabled communities in the State of Hawaii deserve no less than this. Anything less than this is an unethical practice of procedures on people in active medical disease and disorder states. The Constituents I represented in Kalihi Valley did have a Vice Chairwoman that upheld their Civil Rights and fought for them, at least throughout her term until she moved to Reno for her own health and safety in that fight. Let the FTA decide from here! Mahalo Nui Loa and Much Aloha to you all. I will miss you until I return to kiss you all again!

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