Freemark’s column is another must-view (see yesterday’s recommendation to watch a Phoenix TV station’s video on the city’s at-grade accident rate). Here are a few excerpts:
• Governor Lingle, who supported the project earlier in her career, is now making the rail line a political issue.
• Despite falling tax revenue, the city has not had to adjust the project’s size significantly because of lower-than-expected construction contract costs.
• The Mayor’s ambition for a rail line whose first phase would go into service in 2012 seems likely to be fulfilled, unless Ms. Lingle is able to raise enough concern at the FTA to put a halt to plans. For the sake of the mobility of Honolulu’s population, one hopes that she fails.
• The FTA has gotten better in recent years in getting transit project costs under control, and the Honolulu line does have more than $1 billion in contingencies built in already. The Governor’s support of a light rail alternative over the elevated heavy rail line planned would result in a far less-used project that would do far less to affect the island’s commuting patterns.
• The street-running system promoted by the AIA would eliminate most of the time-saving advantages of the train.
• Light rail operating in the street, even with its own right-of-way, would be far slower; for example, the 20-mile Phoenix light rail system takes 1h05 to complete its journey, versus the 42 minutes projected for Honolulu’s slightly longer line.
• The fact that Honolulu’s population is heavily concentrated in single corridor that is expected to have 760,000 residents and 500,000 jobs by 2030 can’t hurt (ridership). Fourteen miles of planned extensions into Waikiki and to the University of Hawaii-Manoa will make the project all the more valuable.
• Honolulu’s uniquely linear development will make its rail line useful for a huge percentage of commutes, especially because trains will be substantially faster than automobiles following similar paths on congested roadways.
• But those speeds will be only possible with a completely grade-separated line. Mayor Hannemann has to ensure that his vision of a truly rapid transit line is realized.
• (Honolulu’s rail line) will offer far more benefits to the daily lives of (Oahu residents) than the at-grade light rail project Governor Lingle is now advocating, which will attract far fewer passengers because of its slower speeds. One hopes her objections are simply a distraction before construction begins.
And there’s more to make reading the entire column worthwhile.