Sunday, January 8, 2012

LTE Forum: Someone Should Tell Bette Midler the Facts about Rail: It Won’t Be Built on the Beach!

Today’s letters to the editor page in the morning paper (subscription) includes a missive from one of Hawaii’s most famous daughters, star of stage and screen Bette Midler, who was born in Honolulu (here's her yearbook photo).
Ms. Midler objects to Honolulu’s plan to build an elevated rail system to connect downtown Honolulu with the growing bedroom communities in the west and several communities in between. The letter shares Ms. Midler’s fear that the project will “sacrifice the most important amenity (Hawaii) has to offer the world, the beauty of its environment….”
With the expectation that her publicist will eventually find this Yes2Rail online post, today’s LTE Forum offers some perspective that may be helpful to her appreciation of what Honolulu rail will be, and what it won’t. First, some of her letter:

Rail would be blight on Hawaii’s beauty (Star-Advertiser, 1/8)
“…I have lived in New York City for many years, and can testify to the noise and ugliness these elevated trains bring to every community through which they pass. This project is 40 years too old. In the last 40 years, there have been many advances in public transportation and many new ideas about how to integrate need with environment… Why does it have to be 20 feet in the air? There were trains in Hawaii in years past, and there were electric buses, too...”
As we noted a few days ago, the beach is the attraction for visitors to Hawaii, along with our perpetual summer. We would hope Ms. Midler might come to appreciate that rail’s route will be nowhere near the beach! The vast majority of visitors to Honolulu book hotel rooms in Waikiki, and most their transportation while here is walking to and from that world-famous stretch of sand.

Should they venture by bus or rental car beyond Waikiki, they’ll find a beautiful island with mountains, valleys, gardens, world-class surfing on the North Shore and seascapes, but they’ll also experience a 21st century city with world-class traffic congestion – so much worse than what Ms. Midler remembers during her high school years (Radford HS, class of ’63) that any word picture fails to adequately describe it.

Not the ‘El’
Tourists to Hawaii escape hometowns with big-city problems, too, and although some may expect to find grass shacks and an idyllic paradise, most are savvy enough to know that Honolulu is just a better version of where they live, with temperatures in the 80s every day of the year, sunshine and showers, rainbows and palm trees – and traffic.

Also dissimilar to the 1950s is the 21st century train technology Honolulu will be building. Objections to elevated rail transit often are grounded in memories of yesteryear and the obviously inferior technologies of the era. New York City’s first elevated line went into service in 1870! The Chicago El also began operations in the 19th century.
We’d be as appalled as Ms. Midler if Honolulu were building a rail system with the look, feel and noise of the elevated line outside Jake's and Elwood's Chicago apartment in The Blues Brothers film (at right). That’s not happening here.
Elevated rail will give commuters an alternative to some of the worst traffic in the country. It will be largely built through an urban environment that may soon include two dozen more high-rise buildings 300 to 600 feet tall.

We hope Ms. Midler and her people will take a bit of time to better understand Honolulu rail and that those skyscrapers will be what tourists see from Waikiki Beach – not a rail system hidden in their shadows.

This post has been added to our "aggregation" site under the heading LTE Forum.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some counter thoughts on an auto-centric solution.

“The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is the right to destroy the city.”