Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Transit Chief Meets Public Starting Tonight, Lays Out Rail Rationale on Perry & Price Show: Commuters ‘Are Going To Use It and Love It’

Mr. Dan Grabauskas, the new chief executive officer of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, has been on the job three weeks and is wasting no time living his message of project transparency.

Mr. Grabauskas will be the principal speaker at tonight’s Informational Community Meeting from 6 to 8 o’clock in the McKinley High School cafeteria. Other evening sessions will be held over the next week in and near communities whose residents will be served by the rail project.

He’s also talking with the news media, including the top-rated Perry and Price Show on KSSK this morning. Here’s a partial transcript:
Grabauskas: You pretty well see that the road system is broken. (After) having added more lanes and focused on the Zipper lane, we’ve just reached a point of capacity or incapacity on those roadways, and there’s not a lot of room left. What we try to do is look at all alternatives, and there have been a number of alternatives looked at. I’m excited, and I’m here because I feel the rail alternative that’s been voted on and decided is a really positive thing to do. My experience throughout the country is such that when you get this kind of density and this kind of traffic – and frankly, maybe uniquely here, the price of gas – you really see that it’s an absolute waste of time and money sitting in traffic, and rail can be a solution to that.
Larry Price: We pretty much go along with the idea. It seems like everybody is pulling for it and everybody wants it, and now, the City Council is coming up with a bill that’s going to give you 450 million dollars in low-interest loans for unforeseen problems that occur. Is that typical?
Grabauskas: As people may know, the rail project construction is funded by the half-a-percent (increase) of the (General Excise Tax), and the Hawaii congressional delegation will get another one point five five billion dollars from the federal government. The money being debated right now in front of the City Council is a requirement by the Federal Transit Administration that all new projects identify a contingency in the event of some unforeseen circumstances so that you are able to complete the project after having invested locally and federally these billions of dollars. The money that’s being tapped is described in front of the Council literally as money we hope we’ll never use. It’s only for unforeseen circumstances.
Mike Perry: I think a lot of people are still under the misconception that when we get rail, traffic will be better than it is now. Traffic will never be better than it is right now. It will be – with rail – less worse. Is that a reasonable way to state it?
Grabauskas: What we’re hoping to do is to see anywhere between a 15- and 20-percent decrease in the traffic on the roads, so you’re still going to have a very challenging system, which would certainly be true if you tried to add buses into traffic. The real goal with the rail is to have an opportunity to have (transit-oriented development) concentrations along the rail corridor where more people can (live and) ride rail and get to and from their jobs (instead of) having to get on the H-1 in traffic.
Perry: And can we afford to maintain this rail? Will this be something going forward that will not bankrupt the City and County?
Grabauskas: Absolutely. I come from Boston, where we had the oldest rail system in the United States chugging along for 114 years at this point, and it has been only a boon to the city. The city of Boston and other cities around the country and world, when they reach the level of density that we have here, with as many people crowded into a very narrow corridor, it’s a real plus. I don’t think you can afford not to (build rail), given what the traffic is, and we’ll all have to be creative (with) even further solutions in the future if we’re going to have sustainable development.
Price: So when are you going to take on some of these people who are adamant about not having the rail system, like the (former) governor and people on the windward side? Are you going to go out to the public and actually show them the X’s and O’s?
Grabauskas: Absolutely right, and in fact, we’re starting tonight at McKinley High School cafeteria from 6 to 8. We’ll be having an informational community meeting, and then we’ve got one on Wednesday evening at Radford High School cafeteria in Salt Lake, and on Thursday from 6 to 8 at Farrington High School cafeteria in Kalihi, and two more next week. If people are interested in any information about those meetings, they can call 768-6159, or better, just go to HonoluluTransit.org.
Perry: This is a confusing thing for the people of Hawaii. We’re still pretty agnostic about the whole thing because we don’t know. Does anybody know, going forward, how a rail system will work? Some are total disasters, there are some that work, and really, we don’t know. You are saying that you have pretty good confidence in fact that this one is going to be all right.
Grabauskas: From everything I’ve seen about this project, I see it as a real big plus. It’s going to give relief to people in West Oahu, the relief that’s been promised to them for a long time. I’m looking at this as a way to relieve the most unproductive time that I see being spent anywhere on the island, and that is traffic every morning and traffic every afternoon and traffic in the middle of the day now. So if we can do something to give people a reliable 40-minute ride from Kapolei to downtown, I think they’re going to use it and I think they’re going to love it.
Perry: Dan, I have a feeling we’ll be talking to you a lot in the next several years.
Grabauskas: I look forward to it. Thanks very much, Mike and Larry. I appreciate it. Happy May Day and Lei Day.

Yes2Rail: Our sentiments exactly!

No comments: