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“Rail’s Next Stop,” July 2011

Our story on Honolulu’s elevated rail program, estimated to be a $5.3-billion project, has continued to garner controversy among our readers.

Our water pipes are busting, our sewer system is malfunctioning, our streets and roads are some of the worst in the nation, outdated bridges are causing bottlenecks in traffic, the Kamehameha highway on the Windward and North Shore need widening and repairing, crosswalks need signals and we need a new dump.

Yet our elected leaders insist that the rail system go forth, despite that it will cost more than twice what was initially projected. Where is that money going to come from, when there are so many other pressing issues facing our island that we can’t afford?

photos: urban advantage inc.

“I would bet serious money that many who vote for rail do so because they think other people will use it, and that will free up the roads for themselves. … Everybody wants rail so that the other guy will use it.”

"Rail could be a big windfall for tax income. By providing an alternate transportation method we could raise the automobile registration fee by 10 times, as is done in Japan, and make any car older than 10 years have a premium price to register it. This way you could either pay to have the car or use the transit. Either way it is a winning program for tax collection.”

A few in Honolulu want rail transit no matter what it would cost. Most voters probably wouldn’t object to rail if it were to be the first system in America that didn’t require huge taxpayer subsidies. With the city spending our tax dollars to campaign for a “yes” vote, the sum of these two groups made for a slim majority of voters who favored rail back in 2008.

Unfortunately for us, in recent years cost estimates have escalated by more than half, excise tax collections have foundered and a nationwide disgust over legislative earmarks by Congress may have permanently sidelined Senator Dan Inouye in his long-running role as Hawaii’s perpetual pork machine.  So in light of these new developments, it’s fair to suggest a contemporary, full and fair discussion of the costs of rail and its alternatives.  And if we are not to have a new and unambiguous tally of opinion, don’t the citizens of Oahu at least deserve an answer from Mayor Peter Carlisle regarding just how high cost estimates would need to go before he’d pull the plug on this project? Or has the normally responsible Carlisle joined the fringe who will fall on their swords no matter how fiscally irresponsible rail would be for Oahu?


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