Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In Real Estate, the Word Is ‘Location;’ for Rail, the Word that Must Be Mentioned Is ‘Mobility’


For the most thoughtful and dispassionate examination of the rail issue we’ve yet seen anywhere, visit Part I and Part II of a long essay by Kanu Hawaii’s principals. We like just about everything they’ve written, especially about respecting the traditions of Aloha in these islands rather than go tooth and nail at one another over this project.

That said, we must call attention to a key ingredient of this and every similar mass transit project that is missing in the essay, which begins:

“What is at stake in Oahu’s rail controversy? If the proponents of the City’s plan to build a rail system are correct, this is our last chance to build a critical transportation element that will ease traffic congestion, clean the environment, and spark positive economic development.”

What’s missing throughout the essay is the word “mobility.” You won’t find it or any discussion about what rail at its core is intended to do – increase mobility in our community.

Easing traffic congestion (some would say “solving traffic”) is not the core mission of this project. Even the City says congestion will be only 11 percent less in 2030 that it would be without rail, and opponents continually attack the project on this point while missing the bigger point.

Highlighting the Inarguable

It cannot be denied that rail will achieve mobility in the urban corridor for commuters who have little or no unimpeded movement today. Rail will allow those who choose to ride to move 20 miles back and forth through the heart of our city, day in and day out, on time, every time, no matter the congestion on streets and highways. THAT is what this project will accomplish. It won’t and doesn’t pretend to “solve” Oahu’s traffic problem.

Despite not directly addressing the mobility issue, Kanu Hawaii’s essay is must reading for everyone who cares about the rail issue – for, against and still waiting to decide. They’re to be congratulated for making the effort.  We'll add some posts down the line on other topics addressed in the essay, particularly concerning the environment.  Kanu Hawaii's expectation that Oahu will be only 20 percent reliant on renewable energy by 2030 may be far too conservative in light of the energy crisis Hawaii faces today because of our dependence on oil. (See a commentary in today's Advertiser and our Hawaii Energy Options blog.)

1 comment:

The Common Loon said...

Mobility is very important component of the case for rail transit. The key is to move people, not just cars. I agree with you that the guys at Kanu did a wonderful job of providing a balanced and thoughtful analysis of the rail project and its alternatives.

To read my "citizen's case" for rail, go to: http://thecommonloon.blogspot.com/2008/06/slow-train-coming-will-honolulu-ever.html

If you've ever read the Advertiser's online message boards, I go by HapaBear.