Friday, March 30, 2012

Traffic-free Rail Travel Will Be Big for Commuters, But One Goal Can Benefit All Residents: TOD Will Reduce Development Pressures throughout Oahu

Without rail's effect on Second City growth, other neighborhoods would feel the pressure.
We’ll never stop talking about rail’s ability to eliminate the traffic congestion issue for those who choose to ride the train. It’s a huge deliverable that rail opponents refuse to acknowledge as they harp about congestion’s continued growth even after rail is built. As the city’s Wayne Yoshioka once famously said, “ kidding….”

But increased mobility through traffic avoidance is just one of rail’s four main goals, and the other three deserve repeated mention, too. One of them is a direct response to those who oppose rail because they don’t live near the line and don’t think they’ll ride rail.

The “community” argument does seem to move some opponents off the fence and over to the pro-rail side. East Honolulu residents who embrace the community concept and truly care about what traffic congestion is doing to the lives of west side commuters have said this message resonates for them.

But self-interest is a strong motivation, and rail has an answer for the what’s-in-it-for-me folks. By focusing Oahu’s future development throughout this century toward the ewa plain and along the rail line, the project will reduce pressure to develop on the east side, windward side and North Shore.

If this isn’t a logical response to the hard-core environmentalists among us, then they might want to redefine themselves. Smart Growth is what Honolulu rail is all about, and the more we’ve thought about it, the more significant this goal seems.

Keep the Country Country
Everybody will benefit from the rail project for all the generations of the 21st century. The population in the Second City region on the ewa plain is expected to increase 350 percent by 2030 compared to 2000. The city’s General Plan has focused development in the region for decades, and rail will facilitate that focus.

Residents all over Oahu surely can see the benefit of supporting rail as a logical tool in channeling a huge slice of the island’s inevitable growth to ewa. Transit-oriented development (TOD) around rail stations will be a major feature of the project – almost the very definition of Smart Growth.

So the issue the I’ll-never-ride crowd seems to be missing is they’ll benefit from rail even if they never do ride – not only because daily car trips in the urban core will be reduced from what they'd be without rail but also by relieving development pressure in their own neighborhoods.

Not everyone is motivated by "community" spirit; far from it, but when it comes to self interest, that's a motivator that never dies.

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