Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An update on the Honolulu rail issue

We included three articles from the Honolulu paper examining the light rail experiences of D.C., Charlotte and Portland. This is in advance of the proposed $3.7 billion rail project in Honolulu. Now comes news that the anti-rail group Stop Rail Now has temporarily failed in its attempt to bring the issue to a general vote, although they vow to keep fighting.

I agree with Stop Rail Now's attempt to get the issue put before a general election. The spending of (likely) over $4 billion on something that will have a tremendous impact on the everyday lives of Honoluluans is important enough to place on the general ballot. However, I seriously disagree with Stop Rail Now's reasons for opposing rail. Let's address a few:

1. Rail will costs billions. Yes, it will, but so will the continued cost to upgrade and improve the highway system, to build more and wider (and wider, and wider...) highways, to create the system of underpasses and elevated expressways for which Stop Rail Now argues, to fund solutions to deal with the environmental issues caused by all of those cars and to develop infrastructure to house all those cars (i.e. structured parking decks, surface parking lots, etc.).

2. Rail will be an "environmental blight" snaking through town as high as 120 feet. Somehow this supposed "environmental blight" is much worse in the eyes of Stop Rail Now than a system of highways, including the elevated expressways mentioned above, snaking through Honolulu. One rail line is much easier to disguise from view than a 10 lane interstate. This does not even consider the issue of the environmental pollution caused by cars versus the lack thereof caused by light rail, which Stop Rail Now fails to mention. This argument is ridiculous.

3. Rail is noisy. And cars are not? If you have stood next to a new light rail line such as the one in Charlotte versus an interstate, at any time of day, I am convinced you would state that the highway is MUCH noisier than light rail.

Put the issue before a vote, but vote for rail in Honolulu.

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