Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rail Project's Goals Motivate Intervener Requests; FACE Says Transit Line Supports Regional Equity

We’ve called attention to the Honolulu rail project’s goals over the past year to correct their mischaracterization by rail opponents in their ongoing confusion campaign. Yesterday’s request by two local organizations to intervene in the anti-rail lawsuit provides another opportunity to accentuate the goals (see our "aggregation" site), since they have everything to do with the request.

As reported today in Civil Beat (free for occasional visitors), two organizations and an individual – Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP) and Kapolei resident Melvin Uesato – have filed requests with the court to intervene on the side of the lawsuit’s defendants.
FACE is all about equity; the concept is in its name, and Transportation Equity is one of FACE’s key ongoing issues. It’s also one of the rail project’s goals. From Chapter 1 of the Final Environmental Impact Statement:
“Equity is about the fair distribution of resources so that no group carries an unfair burden of the negative environmental, social, or economic impacts or receives an unfair share of benefits…. Improvements to transit availability and reliability would serve all transportation system users, including minority and moderate- and low-income populations.”
In an email to Yes2Rail, FACE state director Drew Astolfi noted rail’s future contribution to making life on Oahu more equitable for all:

“Oahu is slowly becoming a two-tier society, where leeward and ewa people live differently and worse than downtown, windward and East Honolulu people do because of the time they lose in traffic. In some cases it is 10 hours a week. Rail helps fix this by shortening the time of their commute. Rail is the biggest investment in infrastructure that we are likely to see in our lifetime, so it gives the city a chance to plan for affordable housing on the rail route.”
Although FACE seeks to intervene on the city’s side of the lawsuit, the organization doesn’t automatically “rubber stamp” the city’s transportation projects. FACE’s Transportation Equity page notes the group’s ongoing concerns about ensuring that bus service will not be degraded by the rail project, but it also describes FACE’s support for rail:

“The rail means the development of affordable housing along the transit stops, job growth and creation, and focused development along the urban corridor – leaving the country country.”
While job creation is important to FACE and PRP, both groups also believe intervening in the lawsuit supports the project’s long-term goal to contribute to the rational development of the ewa plain to meet the island's critical housing needs.

PRP executive director John White said PRP’s motion to intervene was filed “to ensure our members’ voices are heard. Rail transit is the clear catalyst that will get our members back to work and lays the groundwork for a 21st century Honolulu that is truly sustainable…  Honolulu will only reach its fullest potential when we ensure that housing becomes affordable again, that people have alternatives to costly automobiles, and that saving our environment becomes a top priority. Rail is the only project on the horizon that moves us closer to that goal.”

The rail project’s four goals are described in detail in the FEIS, Chapter 1, paragraph 1.8 and 1.9.

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