Number crunchers say the tax will add about 2.5 cents to each gallon of gasoline, which already costs Hawaii consumers more than residents of just about everyplace in the country. (McGrath, Alaska residents are paying $9/gallon, but that’s the exception that proves the rule.)
It’s a certainty that commuting by car will cost more over time, and the new tax simply is more evidence of that foregone conclusion. Commuting by rail thereby will become an obvious choice for tens of thousands of commuters once the project is up and running. But that’s not why we’re writing today.
The Big Disconnect
The evidence suggests that too many people continue to miss the essential point of grade-separated transit – that it’s the only way to completely avoid sitting in traffic congestion two or more times a day while traveling east-west through Honolulu’s urban corridor.
The recent soft launch of Civll Beat, the online subscription news service, suggests that even some of its journalists haven’t quite gotten their arms around rail. One triggered a lively exchange with readers by writing that “jobs are at the heart of this (rail) debate,” an assessment that misses rail's essential truth, which is:
Honolulu’s rail project will restore mobility to our community. Grade-separated transit (Honolulu’s will be elevated) is the only transportation mode that completely avoids surface congestion. That’s why similar projects around the world are so obviously successful in letting their riders know their exact arrival time at their destination before they even begin their trips!
Jobs, the economic stimulus, the environmental pluses – they’re all important, but surely nobody is stepping up to the microphone to declare that the primary reason to build rail is to create jobs. Only rail’s critics prop up that straw man as a convenient target to tear down.
But the bottom line is about mobility. Train riders will no longer be victimized by traffic congestion, which like the price of gasoline can only be expected to increase.