Monday, May 2, 2011

Aloha Spirit Aside, Is Honolulu a ‘Shareable City’?

After literally decades of anticipation, the Honolulu rail project has moved rather quickly from the “preparation phase,” which spanned years of work on the Alternatives Analysis, the Final Environmental Impact Statement and other milestones, into the current pre-construction phase.

Utilities relocation has begun and will be followed by actual construction of the overhead guideway once final federal funding approval is received later this year.

As noted in a February commentary by a project leader, “the city has turned a critical corner in developing a long-overdue transportation alternative for Oahu’s residents and visitors.”

We’re closer than we’ve ever been as a community to achieving that alternative to twice-a-day traffic congestion for commuters traveling through Honolulu’s urban core.

That means we’re also closer to considering concepts about urban living that improved transportation already has fostered in cities like San Francisco, where the Shareable City movement has taken root.

Getting To Know You

Honolulu rail likely will be a catalyst for more sharing within our diverse Honolulu neighborhoods and more interaction between neighborhood residents than car travel can provide.

It’s ironic to consider the car as a limiting factor in this so-called sharing, but the ever-increasing cost of driving, road congestion and difficulty in finding a parking space at your destination don’t support the car’s billing as the great liberator.

Consider also that the H-1 freeway is anything but neighborhood friendly. It exists to move commuters around and beyond our neighborhoods and their commercial districts by connecting suburbia with job centers.

Honolulu rail will do that and much more. Its stations will be centered in communities the highway so obviously avoids. Neighborhoods that are only loosely connected today by buses that may require transfers and an hour of travel will be within minutes of one another using rail.

Don’t Think Twice

Once rail is built, residents won’t think twice about hopping aboard a train to travel from their neighborhood to another one across town to shop, explore restaurants and just get acquainted with a part of their city they’ve avoided for years. Rail travel will be especially efficient with a transit pass.

We think the answer to our headline’s question is “no.” Honolulu is not yet what they’re calling a Shareable City because it lacks a practical and pleasurable travel connection through the urban core to connect its diverse neighborhoods.

Because rail will change all that, the project ‘s construction phase might well include an wide effort by individuals and groups on how the system will help Honolulu become an example of Shareable City living.

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