We can imagine some freeway opponents arguing that Honolulu should either build the freeway or improve surface streets, but not both.
Both obviously were necessary to accommodate the travel needs of Oahu’s growing population. Doing one but not the other was not an option, and those who could foresee the future’s requirements won that argument.
Oahu population growth is an acknowledged fact of life in the 21st century, just as it was in the 20th, and Star-Advertiser columnist Cynthia Oi’s “Under the Sun” column (subscription required) today has her perspective on how and where it should happen.
Ms. Oi flatly declares there should be only one direction for Oahu’s future growth; it should be either upward in taller buildings or outward in suburbia.
Her principle focus is Governor Abercrombie’s recent proposal to raise Honolulu’s height limit to 650 feet. The Governor reasons that significantly taller buildings in urban Honolulu would include a mix of both luxury and affordable housing, with the latter available for Honolulu’s so-called “work force.”
Reading between the lines, we detect Ms. Oi’s familiar anti-rail sentiments that go back at least five years (see her “Under the Sun” column on 12/13/06). The inference we draw from today’s piece is that if future growth is channeled into town, it won’t be necessary to build Honolulu rail to support growth in the Second City on the ewa plain.
This either-or approach to planning Oahu’s future seems as far-fetched as the earlier one would have been to either build freeways or improve surface streets, but not both. We know the Second City is on the planning map. We know people will continue to drive their cars. We know there will always be pressure to provide homes where 50 years of planning says they should be – in ewa.
We also know building housing in town makes sense. It lessens the need to drive and add to the congestion on streets and highways. “They can’t have both” just doesn’t ring true in a century that is only 11 years old.
Transit-oriented development (TOD) is one of the project’s goals. It's going to happen in urban Honolulu with new high-rise buildings and along rail's 20-mile route linking Ala Moana with Kapolei out west.
Fifty years ago, the tallest structure in Hawaii (aside from broadcast towers) was 10-story Aloha Tower on the Honolulu waterfront – all 184 feet of it. We can imagine more than a few voices being raised in opposition to the first building that would exceed the Tower's height.
Predictions made in 2011 about where people will be living on Oahu 50 years from now will be accurate only if they embrace the obvious possibilities – upward (27 high-rises already are planned for Kakaako), outward to areas already designated for growth and around Honolulu rail’s stations.