The Mobility Issue
Honolulu is a vibrant and growing city, but it lacks a quality that all world-class population centers have in common – mobility for its citizens. Without alternative modes of travel that allow citizens to avoid traffic congestion, mobility is impossible, and stagnation is the likely result.
As you know, there is a spirited debate now under way between supporters of the City’s proposed rail system, led by Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and opponents who don’t want the system built for a variety of well-publicized reasons.
The Stop Rail Now movement has asked me to sign their petition. While I believe citizens are the ultimate source of power in a democratic society, I am not going to sign, and I’m pleased to have an opportunity this evening to tell you why.
I have two responses to rail’s opponents who say projects as large as this one should be subject to a referendum so voters will have their say:
First, the people’s elected representatives already have voted to build this transit project. The December 2006 vote by the City Council in favor of a grade-separated fixed guideway was held after an extended period of study and debate. The Council’s vote was 7-2 in favor of the project, a solid endorsement by any measure.
Rail’s opponents today ignore that outcome as they pursue their petition drive, when in fact, that vote was the result of exhaustive debate and analysis – all conducted by duly elected representatives of the people on their behalf. We don’t add an extra quarter to football games when the losing team in regulation time asks for it, and we shouldn’t now revisit the decision already made by the City Council.
The second reason is the most important in my view. It’s clear from following the rancorous debate over rail played out in the media that self-interest rather than community interest is the primary motivation among most parties.
West Oahu and urban Honolulu residents appreciate that rail would shorten their travel times along the H-1 corridor and therefore markedly improve their quality of life. The unifying attitude among many rail opponents is that they’ll never ride the train and therefore see no reason to support it.
All viewpoints deserve recognition, and I honor them. Nevertheless, I believe this project is too important to put to a vote that might well come down to a split between potential riders on one side and a larger number of Oahu residents who say they’ll never ride the train on the other.
This is a community interest issue, and as the elected leader of our entire state community, I must put that consideration above the narrower self-interest assessment of many rail opponents.
I urge Oahu residents to not sign the anti-rail petition. Putting this issue to a vote driven by self-interest considerations would not be in our community’s best interests.
My final thoughts this evening address the ever-present traffic congestion in urban Honolulu. While the rail system project would not “solve” traffic, no single effort can do that.
Billions of dollars in transportation improvements are already planned in the decades ahead. The City continues to expand its excellent bus system, and the State is studying and implementing new highway improvements with the support of the Federal government that will help reduce congestion and improve travel times.
Thank you for watching this evening. I welcome your views on this issue and encourage you to contact my office as we continue to build a better community for all Hawaii citizens. Good night, and Aloha.
This speech or a better version of it would have demonstrated what the Honolulu Advertiser called for in a recent editorial.
(Read the post immediately below for our Full Disclosure Alert.)