Thursday, March 15, 2012

LTE Forum: Senior Looks Forward To Riding Rail; Writer Knocks Potholes, but At Least He’s Moving, Plus: US Transit Ridership in ’11 Was 2nd Highest

The letters to the editor column has at least one rail-related contribution nearly every day, an indication of the community’s ongoing interest in the one Oahu issue that’s been boiling on the back or front burner for decades – traffic congestion.

Today’s LTE forum highlights two letters in the Star-Advertiser (subscription) that we hope benefit from additional exposure Yes2Rail gives them.

Improve bus system for sake of seniors (Star-Advertiser, 3/15)
“Twenty years from now when the rail system is completed, many of us seniors will not be able to walk to the rail station. I agree with former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s suggestion that we should spend more money to increase the number of city buses. For those who can’t drive, it would be most convenient for buses to stop along neighborhood driveways, so passengers can go shopping at nearby shopping malls or the to the rail station….”
The Pearl City letter-writer overlooks the key plank in Mr. Cayetano’s mayoral campaign platform – his intention to kill rail. That means this senior and all others could anticipate continued reliance on TheBus as their only public transit option in a Cayetano administration.

Many seniors are looking forward to Honolulu rail because of its potential to expand their mobility significantly. By walking or taking TheBus to a nearby station, they’ll be able to travel much farther through town in a given amount of time than they can today.

Enhancing mobility is one of rail’s four main goals, and another one is ensuring transportation equity to all persons regardless of age and economic circumstances. We wish the writer good health so he can enjoy the traffic-free benefit of rail travel within 10 years, not 20.

Why Can’t Honolulu fix all its potholes? (Star-Advertiser, 3/15)
“Try to drive through Hawaii Kai for any considerable distance without having to take drastic evasive maneuvers to avoid a pothole…. I recently traveled to Seoul, Tokyo and Sydney. I did not see any open potholes. How come these destinations are faced with similar challenges but found a way to maintain good roads? It can be done…. If we cannot main our existing roads, how can we build and maintain both our roads and a new rail system?”
The public's disdain for potholes helped push the issue onto page one today. Road maintenance is an easy target for disgruntled citizens, and rail opponents tend to be among the most vocal pothole protestors.

We have three reactions: Potholes and roads are being repaired, as driving through many Oahu neighborhoods, including Hawaii Kai, will show. Numerous streets are being completely resurfaced, not just repaired.

Seoul, Tokyo and Sydney may have found a way to simultaneously maintain their rail systems and eliminate potholes, although the existence of their disappearance from those cities is not a certainty based only on the writer’s observations. Honolulu will benefit from those cities' experience and manage to maintain roads, trains, sewers and water systems because that’s what responsible cities must do.

Finally, west Oahu residents might envy the writer’s ability to drive fast enough through Hawaii Kai to make pothole-evasion maneuvers necessary. West-siders who now creep along in traffic on their daily commutes are looking forward to avoiding that congestion once rail is built. We suspect they’ll happily pay for the system’s upkeep, just as they paid for the widening and improvements along Kalanianaole Highway that East Honolulu residents now enjoy.

Transit Ridership Up
Americans took 200 million more transit trips last year than in 2010 and 1 billion more than in 2000, pushing total rides to 10.4 billion – the second highest annual ridership since 1957, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Only 2008 recorded more transit trips when citizens pulled back from driving then as oil and gas prices reached record levels. The national average price of a gallon of regular gas topped $4 that year.

Today’s national average according to the AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report is $3.821 and rising. Hawaii leads the nation at $4.445. Gas on the neighbor islands traditionally costs much more than on Oahu; the photo was taken this week at the Kaunakakai station on Molokai. The other member states in the “$4 Club” are California ($4.362), Alaska ($4.217), Illinois ($4.071) and New York ($4.001).
In reporting on the increase in transit ridership, The New York Times noted the trend follows an improvement in the nation’s economy:
“With the return of jobs came a return of straphangers. Studies have found that nearly 60 percent of transit rides are taken by people commuting to and from work, and there were big increases in ridership in parts of the country that gained employment.”
APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said, What is exciting is that the uptick in ridership occurred in large, medium and small communities, showing the broad support that public transportation has nationwide. In fact, the largest rate of growth was in rural communities with populations under 100,000, where public transit use increased by 5.4 percent.”
Commuters also are expected to be the primary users of Honolulu’s future rail system as they travel between their homes and jobs along the 20-mile line, including in downtown Honolulu.

No comments: