Saturday, December 17, 2011

LTE Forum: Fretting about Freeloaders, Writers Ignore Success of ‘Honor System’ in other Cities

Hawaii’s geographical isolation contributes to how some Oahu residents react to Honolulu rail in its entirety or in its details. Our residents must travel farther to set foot in another metropolitan area than anybody else on earth. That means our exposure to successful transit systems is significantly less than elsewhere. Low exposure leads to skepticism and then outright opposition among some – our theory, at least.

Opponents often write that “nobody will ride this train,” an assessment that ignores reality around the world in cities with cost-effective and convenient rail transit systems. Two letters to the editor (LTE) in the Star-Advertiser this week (subscription) seemed to ignore what works elsewhere, too. They reacted to the newspaper’s earlier story on plans to use the “honor system” for fare payment rather than turnstiles, gates or other fare-collection systems.

Honor system will cost a lot (Star-Advertiser, 12/16)
“...City planners are considering an ‘honor system’ for rail transit. Every driver (the writer is one) knows that relying on people’s honor is ideal, but it does not work, leaving someone else to pay for the shortfall.”
Honor system ignores security (Star-Advertiser, 12/16)
“The ‘no barrier concept’ for access to rail clearly will not meet current security needs, post-9/11… The honor system will not meet the revenue needs for the taxpayers asnd requires greater manpower for enforcement, lower revenue and reater expense is a bad formula….”
Wikipedia has a list with dozens of cities where a “proof of payment” system – aka, honor system – works for rail and bus systems. It’s worth noting that some of the newest systems are on the list; modern concepts of building attractive rail transit systems include making them accessible to riders. Barriers like turnstiles don’t support easy access.

As for the security concerns expressed by a Kaimuki resident, safety and security have been key components in planning Honolulu rail, and there’s no reason to anticipate threats to passenger safety with a  proof-of-payment system.

A letter in today’s paper focuses on another issue that’s top of mind for rail opponents and supporters alike.

Rail will be worst case of isle visual pollution (Star-Advertiser, 12/17)
"Congratulations to Bob Loy and The Outdoor Circle for finally getting into the fight against rail…. Where is the Hawaii Visitors Bureau? Does it really think this is what visitors want to see when the come to Hawaii?... I doubt you can find a city where an elevated transportation system has improved the area around it. Honolulu is going backwards visually with rail.”
We addressed the Outdoor Circle’s 12/11 commentary at some length and acknowledged that an elevated guideway will have visual impacts. The EIS system acknowledges it, too, but those impacts have to be weighed against what an elevated system will deliver – fast, frequent, reliable and safe transportation through the urban core.

Traffic congestion is a reality in 21st century Honolulu, and it has profound effects on the lives of those who commute twice a day through our narrow east-west corridor using the H-1 freeway and parallel surface streets. Today’s letter writer lives in windward Kailua and presumably experiences none of these commuters’ frustrations. Traffic is their issue, and Honolulu rail will be an option to sitting in it.

Tourists won’t stop coming to Waikiki or even the west-end resorts because we’ve built transportation infrastructure to improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of local residents. Tourists come for sun, sea, sand and surf. Few if any will be put off by a 30-foot-tall rail system between Ala Moana Center and East Kapolei; many will ride the system to Pearl Harbor and other destinations. Vastly more visible to tourists is the high-rise forest growing in Kakaako and the ones already rooted in Waikiki and downtown that block mountain and ocean views.

The more people travel, the more they appreciate how cities deal with the issues that affect their citizens. Oahu’s major issue is traffic congestion, and we’re dealing with it by building elevated rail.

No comments: