Offering cost-effective ways to reduce traffic congestion in Honolulu

Archive: January and February 2010:


date February 19, 2010.

City: The rail transit schedule changes again:

The City has quietly changed the schedule so that the Final EIS is now expected in the late summer of 2010.

This can be found on the City’s transit website. Click on the last question, “When will rail transit service actually begin?” It tells us that, "Completion of Final Environmental Impact Study - late summer 2010, Record of Decision – 2010, Groundbreaking and start of construction - late 2010.”

Our view: The rail project is now in transition from being "a done deal" to being "an undone deal."


Star-Bulletin: “Abercrombie calls planning for rail system 'messed up'”:

In today’s Star-Bulletin, star reporter Richard Borreca reports that Abercrombie said he has "serious concerns" about how the $5 billion, 20-mile rail project is being handled.

"The mayor says it meets all the environmental criteria," said Abercrombie. "We will see. That doesn't mean it is a good system."

"The (Federal) Transit Administration doesn't say this is a good idea. They say have you met all the environmental criteria. I don't think it does, but I don't have the final draft yet," he said.


date February 15, 2010.

Star-Bulletin: "Rail route, agenda scrutinized":

In today's Star-Bulletin, Dr. Kioni Dudley, President of the Friends of Makakilo, has written an excellent op/ed in opposition to the current rail plan from a West Oahu viewpoint. He reminds us that the first three stations are presently in open fields and the fourth and fifth ones will wreck the recently completed beautification of Waipahu. He shows us that the route was designed for the benefit of developers, not for the residents of the area.


Star-Bulletin editorial about Lingle's rail proposal is wrong:

This past Saturday the Star-Bulletin's editorial wrote about how the "rail transit between Ala Moana and Kapolei is similar to the elevated rail system Lingle proposed in 2003 ... so the governor's aesthetic preference for a ground-level rail line lacks substance."

The fact is that what the governor proposed was totally different and would not have generated the intense environmental opposition to the current plan. If the editorial writers had read their own newspaper's account of the governor's proposal they would have found that she proposed a 22-mile line from Kapolei to Iwilei where passengers would transfer to Bus/Rapid Transit (BRT) for the rest of their travel. Her rail proposal would not run along the downtown waterfront and impact the historic districts nor would it disturb any ancient Hawaiian burial grounds. Nor would it be so ugly as the elevated rail (35-feet up) would be snaking its way through our city to Ala Moana Center. So Governor Lingle's proposal was not "similar."

Another point of dissimilarity: The cost estimate for her proposal was $2.6 billion and we had a thriving economy; today the forecast is $5.3 billion and the economy is in the tank.


Advertiser — "Rail inevitably will become financial burden":

In today's Advertiser, Cliff Slater has an op/ed detailing the financial risks the Mayor will be taking in attempting to build the rail line. The risks may be too much for the Governor to stomach since any significant cost overruns or revenue shortfalls will spillover into the state's financial burden. We have attached a footnoted version of Slater's op/ed here.


date February 4, 2010.

Rail transit: It keeps getting worse:

Portland opened a 14.7-mile commuter rail line a year ago and the Portland Tribune today reports on its performance.

It cost $161.2 million, which was $43.9 million over budget, or 37 percent.

It carries 1,170 commuters per day, and thus construction cost was $138,000 per commuter.

Rail’s destruction of the nation’s net worth continues.


date February 3, 2010.

Honolulu rail 4th most expensive in nation:

[This is a rework of yesterday's post] We are indebted to the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole who has produced a list of all urban rail lines, both heavy and light rail, built in the U.S. since World War II together with their capital costs, all shown in 2009 dollars.

This allows us to compare the Honolulu rail proposal’s projected costs of $5.3 billion with those of other U.S. metro areas. Bear in mind that the other cities’ costs are actual, whereas Honolulu’s is projected and cost overruns for rail projects are the norm with an average of 40.6 percent according the FTA's own study.

Only three other metro areas have spent more than Honolulu intends to spend. They together with their populations are Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles, all with far greater populations than Honolulu. We have included the nine most expensive metro area rail installations together with Honolulu's. Clearly the outlier is Honolulu with a cost per capita of population nearly double that of the next highest and several times that of the average, and that is before any cost overruns.


date February 2, 2010.

FTA Administrator Rogoff acting strangely:

In a conference call with the media early this morning, FTA Administrator, Peter Rogoff, announced that Honolulu’s rail project is now listed in the FTA’s 2011 Annual New Starts listing showing federal support of $1.55 billion. This was just the routine annual listing of those projects that are in the Preliminary Engineering phase.

Then Rogoff said the following according to the Advertiser’s Sean Hao,

"We expect to continue to work with the city and county to continue to strengthen their financial plan and we will be evaluating a new financial plan when they make an application to go into Final Design."

However, what the New Starts listing itself said about Honolulu’s finances was as follows:

    • “Assumptions regarding growth in GE [Tax] revenues and Section 5309 bus discretionary funds are optimistic compared to historical experience. Financing costs appear to be understated.

    • “The financial plan show the City has little ability to address funding shortfalls or cost increases.

    • “The GE [Tax] surcharge revenues that will be applied to project-related debt service provide very slim coverage.

    • “Assumptions regarding state operating subsidies and growth in rail unit operating costs and bus and paratransit operating costs are optimistic compared to historical experience.

Rogoff went on to say: "The governor has an important role to play in this project in the approval of this project especially as it relates to state environmental law and I do not begrudge the governor having an independent look at the financing of this project," Rogoff said. "But please know that the FTA also takes an independent look at the finances of this project and we will do so again when they submit a financial plan to get into Final Design."

Rogoff might have mentioned that the FTA “independent look” has consistently underestimated the final costs of rail projects to the tune of a 40.6 percent average as shown in FTA’s own studies.

If Honolulu experienced this average overrun it would cost us an additional $2 billion — all to be funded locally — and that means the state would have to get involved in funding it. So, of course, the Governor has to take “an independent look,” even if it was not a stringent legal requirement. The state does not need to be liable for another $2 billion given its present problems.

Rogoff also said he was "perplexed" by Lingle's concerns that city officials did not adequately study street-level alternatives to an elevated train. That is absolutely outrageous since the Environmental Protection Agency, among many others, voiced exactly the same opinion.

Rogoff’s bureaucratic arrogance is strange since prior FTA Administrators have assiduously avoided any taint of being involved in any way in local politics. Yet here is Rogoff squarely in the current disagreement between Hannemann and Lingle.

Since Rogoff has been an aide to Senator Inouye, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is a way that the good Senator can again side with Hannemann indirectly.


Honolulu rail 4th most expensive in nation:

We are indebted to the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole who has produced a list of all urban rail lines, both heavy and light rail, built in the U.S. since World War II together with their capital costs shown in 2009 dollars.

Metro area



Los Angeles



Washington DC



San Francisco






This allows us to compare the Honolulu rail proposal’s projected costs of $5.3 billion with those of other U.S. metro areas. Bear in mind that the other cities’ costs are actual, whereas Honolulu’s is projected and cost overruns for rail projects are the norm.

Only three other metro areas have spent more than Honolulu intends to spend. They together with their populations are Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles, all with far greater populations than Honolulu.


date January 29, 2010.

FACE concerned rail project could harm bus service:

The Advertiser reports that Honolulu’s FACE (Faith Action for Community Equity) is in Washington this week because of its concerns that the rail project could siphon off money from the City’s bus system.

FACE leaders will join interfaith leaders from 20 other urban areas at the Transportation Equity Network's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. They will be asking Congressional and administration officials for help in closing the gap in Hawaii's rail plan. The city is proposing diverting $300 million from TheBus to pay for a planned $5.3 billion train.

The Transportation Equity Network is a national group concerned with equality and social justice in urban transportation.

We have warned for years that rail transit is a major threat to good bus service. The normal history of bus riders unions is that they are formed to fight bus fare increases and service cuts that are the result of introducing rail transit service. The huge costs involved, when faced with tax revenue reductions and the requirement to lower expenses, result in bus service reduction but not for rail service. Bus riders unions exist in Los Angeles, Vancouver BC, Boston, Portland, Austin, and Tucson, among others.


Now that there is blood in the water ...

Now that serious doubt is beginning to emerge about the viability of the rail proposal, and light rail at-grade is beginning to be discussed, it is time for us make our case for the tollway option — the Managed Lane Alternative (aka HOT lanes).

Fundamentally, the City and Parsons Brinckerhoff rigged the evaluation of the Managed Lane Alternative  to make it appear inferior to rail. That was subsequently shot down by the study done by Professor Panos Prevedouros and his students and others.

We have produced a one-page elevator pitch about the Managed Lane Alternative and how it will have equal transit ridership with rail, reduce traffic congestion better than rail, all at one-fifth the total cost and one-tenth the impact on Honolulu taxpayers. On this one-pager there are also links to the details of how the City rigged the game.


Governor, mayor at odds over financing for rail:

Today’s Star-Bulletin and Advertiser carried the story of a meeting with reporters where the Governor said,

“The city's plans for rail transit are based on financial assumptions that are too shaky to proceed without more study, says Gov. Linda Lingle. If she had to do it today, Lingle says, she would not sign off on the city's rail transit plan because of those financial worries."

"The federal government is questioning whether the general fund of the city can stand this much debt and what will happen if there is an overrun—where will they get the money?" Lingle said.”

"I am convinced more than ever after reading the federal government's most recent letters written to the city that the financial plan is shaky at best," Lingle said. "If I had to sign off now, I couldn't, based on what I know from the federal government about the financial plan."

Much of what the Governor is discussing stems from a five-page letter from FTA to the City on October 16, 2009. In the letter giving the City permission to enter Preliminary Engineering (PE), the FTA wrote:

“This pre-award authority does not constitute an FTA commitment that federal funds will be approved for the project in the future. FTA's approval of PE is not a commitment to approve or fund any final design or construction activities. Such decisions must await the outcome of PE, including completion of the environmental process."

“In addition, per FTA's Final Policy Guidance on New Starts and Small Starts published September 2, 2009, the City will have pre-award authority to procure vehicles, acquire real property and real property rights, and perform utility relocations upon completion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

”Further, the City should be aware that FTA's standards for the financial rating are higher for entry into final design than for entry into PE. The higher standard for final design includes an assessment of the robustness of the financial plan against increases in costs, shortfalls in revenue streams, and competing demands on funding sources. Some elements of the current financial plan may not fare well in the stress tests that FTA will apply to evaluate robustness. These elements include the projected revenue stream from the General Excise Tax, the diversion of FTA Section 5307 funds from ongoing capital needs of the bus system, and the increasing share of the City's annual budget that is required to fund the transit system. Were this plan submitted today in support of a request to advance the project into final design, its weaknesses would likely cause FTA to deny the request. Therefore, continued development and strengthening of the financial plan will be a crucial part of the PE effort."

NOTE: Even if the City gets approval for the Final EIS and the Record of Decision (ROD), the FTA is still not allowing the City to begin construction. This stems from the Final Guidance from FTA on LONPs. It makes it quite clear that the FTA is not going to allow the City to begin actual construction before they are much further along in the process and closer to being granted a Full Funding Grant Agreement.

The letter further warns the City that delays over environmental concerns means that they would be unlikely to get the Final EIS before the end of November. It is now the end of January we have still not seen the Final EIS. And it is still a Draft Final EIS until the Governor signs off. She appears reluctant to do so because of the danger to the state’s finances from a spillover of City shortfalls caused by cost overruns, revenue shortfalls and increased city liabilities for bus funds.


date January 23, 2010.

Why congestion relief is important:

We just found online Cliff Slater's notes on traffic congestion for a talk given at the 2nd International Symposium on Freeway and Tollway Operations held here in Honolulu in June of last year.

These are worth reading if only for a quote from Parsons Brinckerhoff to the effect that transit won't do much to relieve traffic congestion, but HOT lanes will.

The points he makes are the significant savings to be made by both business and consumer alike when traffic congestion is relieved.

Click here for the notes.


Another Parsons Brinckerhoff project in trouble:

On January 14, we mentioned the cost overruns being experienced by the Norfolk, Virginia, rail line now under construction. That was only the half of it. For a more complete view of the problems hampering this Parsons Brinckerhoff project, click on this link.


What is a Letter of No Prejudice? :

The Governor last Monday made the point that following a Final EIS (should she sign off on it), and then a Record of Decision, the City then needs a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP).

The Final EIS and the Record of Decision certify that the environmental process is complete but has nothing to do with money. Funding is in the next part of the process called Final Design.

An LONP from the FTA, on the other hand is about money; it allows the City to spend local money without endangering their ability to get federal grants. The FTA does not like cities spending local money to construct a rail line before the money process is completed by a Full Funding Grant Agreement.

FTA will issue an LONP for construction when it is confident that the refined capital costs and financial plan developed in Final Design will match up.

However, the FTA is expressing doubts that the City will even make it into Final Design and the FTA’s Financial Oversight Contractor is expressing the same doubts.

We conclude that no matter what happens with the Final EIS that an LONP allowing the City to start construction will not be granted for at least six months. For the full details of this assessment click here.


date January 19, 2010.

Panos goes to Washington and takes Metro:

Washington DC Metro rail system presently has a $7 billion maintenance backlog. Dr. Panos Prevedouros reports on the appalling condition of the Metro he experienced earlier this month on a business trip to Washington DC. Here a few paragraphs to whet your appetite for the report:

"Today Sunday January 10 is my second day in a five day visit in Washington, D.C. where I attend the 89th annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, a unit of the National Academy of Engineering.

"I decided to introduce Metro to Katie and 15 month old Endie so they can visit the Capital Mall, the Smithsonian and other fine museums while I am at the conference.

"You will not believe the state of disrepair of this well-over 10-billion dollar public investment. Our station is more than four stories deep into the ground but the ADA-mandated elevators do not work. People who cannot ride the 3 minute long steep escalator have to wait for buses to take them to other stations.

"None of the elevators in the platform of our station were working. They were closed with long messages about "pardon our appearance" followed by specific messages of when the improvements will be completed. Yet there were stickers on the original dates extending the delivery of the fix to February 2010."


We have the transcript of the Governor's remarks yesterday:

The critical points she made in her opening remarks were:

  • She had not received the Draft Final EIS and so she had nothing to sign even if she wished to.
  • The architects had everything to lose (from City work) and nothing to gain my making this presentation.
  • That Hawaii's economy in 2010 is totally different than the one in 2004 when this project started. All of the state's projects have been modified in light of this.
  • That she and the architects were both in favor of transit, but it had to be done properly.
  • That the FTA told her that the City will need a stronger financial plan before they are allowed to go to final design.
  • That while a contract has been awarded to Kiewit Pacific no Notice to Proceed has been issued and the FTA told her that it cannot be issued until the Final EIS issues, the Record of Decision is issued and the FTA gives the City a Letter of No Prejudice.

date January 18, 2010.

Architects made their case for street-level light rail:

With a quite impressive one and a quarter hour presentation and slide show, the members of the American Institute of Architects made their case for light rail as opposed to the City's elevated heavy rail.

We understand that it will be available later on Olelo and soon as we know we will post the dates and times.

Including questions, the whole presentation ran nearly three hours.


date January 15, 2010.

Star-Bulletin rail editorial was error laden:

Yesterday’s Star-Bulletin editorial, “Elevated rail is first choice,” made some errors that were totally unnecessary and minor checking would have uncovered them. The paragraphs in italics are quoted from the editorial and our comments on the quote are without italics.

“Lingle said this week she had yet to see the environmental statement but has found a group of architects' opposition to the elevated system "very compelling."

The “group of architects” is the Hawaii Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and that should have been made clear.

“… the [elevated rail] plans resemble her 2009 proposed elevated "flyover" two-lane highway above Nimitz Highway through Kalihi.”

Her 2009 proposed flyover was a two lane flyover 20 feet high through the industrial area of Kalihi. That is a totally different from a 35 to 40 foot high rail line running along the waterfront and impacting the historic districts of downtown Honolulu.

“Hannemann said the street-level options "were considered" as part of the "alternatives analysis" during 2005 and 2006. The options were given "significant public review and input," including 13 City Council meetings."

They were not examined and a quick search of the City's Alternatives Screening Memo and its Alternatives Analysis could have easily confirmed that. But that would have required practicing journalism.

“In a letter to the editor yesterday, architect Shaun Ushijima asserted that the opposing group does not represent all architects.”

The editorial should have made clear that the architects who opposed their own association’s long-term opposition to elevated rail are all working for the City on the rail line.

“Hannemann notes that Lingle supported an elevated rail system early in her administration, and her opposition now is nothing short of "amazing."

Lingle’s proposal was for a $2.6 billion rail line, rather than a $5.5 billion line that did not come into town but instead linked to Bus/Rapid Transit program, which the editorial writer could have easily found from the October 28, 2003, Star Bulletin.


date January 14, 2010.

Seattle's Sound Transit blows its ridership forecast:

The Washington Policy Center shows that Sound Transit has missed its ridership projections over the last six months by an average of 31 percent.


O'Toole — Another rail line goes over budget:

"Surprise: Another Light-Rail Line Is Over Its Budget," headlines Cato Institute's Randal O'Toole in an article in the Antiplanner .

“Norfolk leaders want an audit to figure out why its light rail project has gone $108 million over budget,” reports the Associated Press. The city don’t need to spend money on an audit. The reason for the overrun is obvious: It’s a rail-transit construction project.

As if that isn’t enough, the line was planned by Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), the company that planned most of the rail transit lines that have gone over budget in the past 50 years. PB also planned and helped build the Big Dig, another urban-planning project that went way over budget.

San Francisco BART, the nation’s first modern rail transit project, went 50 percent over budget. Since then, some have gone more, some less, but the average has pretty consistently been about 40 percent. The Norfolk project is 46.5 percent over budget.


Former AG backs Lingle on rail in Advertiser op/ed:

In an op/ed in today's Advertiser, former Attorney General Michael Lilly says that Street-level rail deserves a forum and that Governor Lingle is taking the correct action to ensure all options for the project are fully aired


date January 12, 2010.

Advertiser editorial panics over rail hearings:

This morning's Advertiser editorial goes ballistic over the rail hearings and the delays involved. Here are some quotes from it followed by our comments:

“Not only have alternatives been sufficiently studied …” Then why did the Environmental Protection Agency say they question “why light rail or bus rapid transit in an exclusive right-of-way were not considered as reasonable alternatives in the DEIS”?

“… business leaders, labor and our entire Congressional delegation all support the rail plan.” This is the same “Thumbs up, Hawaii!” crowd that have gotten us into the financial trouble we are in now.

“A sensible fiscal plan — one reviewed by top business leaders locally as well as federal officials. “ You are kidding. The latest plan steals $300 million from bus funds, which means that to keep the bus system going that amount will have to come from the General Fund, which is to say, property taxes. Then there is the latest federal assessment of the City’s financial plan which says that FTA’s projections show the City another $322 million short in future GE tax revenues. Sensible?

If tax collections are short they will be “offset by the lower construction costs with bids thus far coming in millions below projections.” The projected costs for the rail are for the finished projects when all the change orders are in, not just the initial low bids.

Senator Inouye is quoted as saying it will "have the benefit of relieving traffic congestion from West O'ahu to Honolulu." The Advertiser knows that traffic congestion in the future with rail will be worse than it is today. Why run something they know is not true?

“The financial plan is on firm footing,” because Senator Inouye says, "I am committed to securing at least $1 billion in federal funds to be matched locally to make this historic project a reality." The only problem here is that the City is projecting getting $1.55 billion, a sum that, per capita, is totally out of line with anything granted to any other city ever.

“… the at-grade option has already been vetted by transit professionals.” No it has not; the City has made no detailed assessment of light rail as required for all “reasonable alternatives.”

James Stone, an architect working on the rail line, is quoted as saying, “I am an AIA member and the small group of AIA members who oppose the elevated rail does not represent me.” The Advertiser knows full well that it has been a long-standing policy of AIA to oppose elevated rail in town. It is for the same reason that the 33 historic properties impacted by the rail line are on Historic Hawaii Foundation’s list of “Most Endangered Sites.”

It is really a shame that the Advertiser editorial staff cannot take a more objective approach to the subject.


date January 11, 2010.

Transit ridership nationally (& locally?) taking a hit:

Third quarter 2009 ridership data is now in for the nation’s transit ridership. Overall it took a 6 percent dive from the previous year bringing the year to date change to minus 4 percent. The American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) believes the reason for the decline are as follows:

    “With high unemployment, significant decreases in gasoline prices, and less state and local revenue available for public transportation operations, public transit ridership declined by 3.8 percent in the first nine months of 2009 compared to record levels in the same period last year. Trips on all of the major modes of public transportation – bus, light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail – were down; paratransit (demand response) and trolleybus were the only two modes that saw increases in ridership.

    “This downturn in public transportation ridership is a reflection of our economic times,” said American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President William Millar. “Nearly 60 percent of riders take public transportation to commute to and from work, so it is to be expected that public transit ridership would be lower when unemployment is high.”

However, if you look at the chart we made from the APTA data together with the bars showing recession years, there does not appear to be much correlation. Gas prices and fares have a far greater effect.

This is borne out in a Reason story of how higher fares in California are driving folks to their cars. APTA data confirms that BART alone is down 9 percent in the third quarter from a year ago.

Since the City appears no longer to be reporting their data to APTA we may assume that TheBus ridership is way down also. And it's funny that we no longer hear from the City about how well mainland transit is doing.


date January 9, 2010.

FOIA release shows FTA’s worries about rail funding:

As part of a FOIA package we received from the FTA two days ago, there was an internal FTA memo dated October 7, 2009, describing the Honolulu rail project. The following are quotes; our added explanatory comments are in square brackets only.

“The City is highly focused on a groundbreaking before the end of calendar year 2009 to fulfill early promises project schedule and to deter the State Legislature (that convenes in January) from diverting funds from the rail-dedicated tax revenue stream to meet shortfalls in the State budget. To achieve this milestone objective, the City anticipates circulation of the FEIS shortly after PE approval and receipt of a Record of Decision (ROD) shortly after the FEIS circulation period concludes. With environmental clearance of the project, the City hopes to receive approval from FTA through a Letter of No Prejudice to break ground on the westernmost 6-mile segment sometime in December. This schedule appears unlikely due to the delay of the FEIS for the reason enumerated above in the NEPA section of this document." [This reference is to the following paragraph from an earlier section of the document.]

    “The City’s schedule calls for publication of the Final EIS very soon after approval of the project into PE and receipt of a Record of Decision in November 2009. However, this ambitious schedule now appears to be unlikely because of protracted meetings on historic and cultural issues. In an unusual step, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has weighed in on the development of a Programmatic Agreement (PA) that needs to be finalized prior to the release of the FEIS.”

"Finally, while the City already has in place a dedicated funding source [½% GE tax increase], project costs have reached a point where they exceed the projected capacity of that source. Further collections have under-run projections made before the current economic downturn. The financial plan calls for the use of FTA Section 5307 formula funds [normally used for buses]for nearly a decade to cover remaining capital costs. A look-ahead by FTA’s financial contractor suggests that these difficulties may cause the financial plan to fail financial stress tests that will be applied when the City requests entry into final design. Consequently, financial issues may pose difficulties sufficient to put at risk the City’s anticipated initiation of final design in early 2010. An early warning of this risk has been included in the PE [preliminary engineering] approval letter."

OUR COMMENT: It is quite interesting to go back to earlier totally positive comments by the City about their financing plan and you would have no idea that the FTA has doubts about whether the City will survive the next test of their financing plan.


Governor slams elevated rail and city’s handling of it:

Both the Star-Bulletin and the Advertiser today cover the Governor’s press conference held yesterday on the elevated rail issue. Here are some quotes:

From the Advertiser “Honolulu's rail costs put state at financial risk, governor says”:

“Honolulu should consider adjustments to its planned $5.3 billion elevated commuter rail line — including building a portion of it at street level — to save money and avoid putting more burden on taxpayers in a down economy.”

"If a project like this fails financially, and 80 percent of the people are here on O'ahu, the state is going to be impacted, and the state is going to have to step in at that point to protect the credit rating of the state and of the city. Because otherwise it would be very difficult for anyone from Hawai'i to be selling bonds,"

"A major concern is the cost of this project in today's atmosphere and what I see as difficulty for our community in the years ahead to get our revenues on track," Lingle said. "People might say it's a city project, but it affects 80 percent of the state. And to knowingly go into a project that is going to burden people financially for a generation to come, again, a project that the community perhaps cannot afford, I think there needs to be adjustment. I don't know another project except this one that has made no adjustment from a pre-recession to a post-recession proposal."

"The American Institute of Architects' Hawai'i chapter estimated "the difference per mile of an above-ground to an at-grade (street-level rail line) at $200 million per mile difference in costs. So if you just did it for half the distance, say 10 miles out of 20 miles, that's a $2 billion savings. And again, that's the kind of adjustment you might want to have to make because of the changing economy and the fact that people can't stand more tax burden at this time," Lingle said.

And from the Star-Bulletin: "Lingle calls city's rail plan costly, elevated tracks ugly."

"Gov. Linda Lingle is becoming a formidable opponent to the city $5 billion rail transit program. Yesterday during an informal news conference, Lingle said the plan costs too much; the city failed to examine alternatives; and elevated tracks would be ugly."

"Lingle says the rail transit plan "is not esthetically pleasing," but she fears the cost and the lack of a thorough examination of alternatives."

"A key element of the environmental impact statement is the examination of alternatives. ... The architects raised the point that they don't believe the alternatives have been addressed," Lingle said."


Edgy Lee deals with the pros and cons of rail:

In September Edgy Lee and her crew at Pacific Network produced a video sequence dealing with the pros and cons of rail and it is very well done. Our apologies for posting it so late but we were not aware of it until today.


date January 8, 2010.

Historic Hawaii lists rail as endangering historic sites:

The Historic Hawaii Foundation website has listed as one of the most endangered historic sites in Hawaii the 33 historic buildings along the path of the projected elevated rail line. Here is an excerpt from their statement; more detail is given on their website.

"The 20-mile elevated rail line will connect West O‘ahu with downtown Honolulu and Ala Moana Center once it’s completed in 2019. The Historic Hawai‘i Foundation (HHF) has identified 33 historic sites between ‘Ewa and Kaka‘ako that will be impacted, with potential outcomes ranging from demolition to being transformed into a rail station. These sites include the Aloha Chapel, designed by renowned architect Vladimir Ossipoff; CINCPAC, the headquarters for the Commander in Chief, Pacific Command; and the Dillingham Transportation Building.

"Given the scale of the project, Honolulu’s rail transit system will profoundly alter the face of the communities through which it passes. “Although the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation supports improved transportation options for Honolulu,” says executive director Kiersten Faulkner, “we remain concerned that the proposed system will have negative impacts on dozens of historic sites along the route. The adverse effects on over 30 historic properties, including at least three historic districts, will fundamentally change the cultural landscape of O‘ahu and forever diminish the civic experience in Honolulu’s historic areas.”


FTA: City likely to be $644 million short for rail tax:

Yesterday we received documents from the FTA from a FOIA request we made on October 18. One of them was the FTA’s Financial Assessment, which says about GE tax collections projected in the City’s August 2009 Financial Plan,

    “If the forecast were restated to reflect the COR’s [Council on Revenue’s] forecasted rate of growth for GET revenues, the revenue shortfall would be about $80 million through 2015. If the financial plan’s forecasted growth rate were applied from that point forward, the shortfall would total about $322 million through 2023.”

The City’s August plan already showed them to be $320 million short from the Draft EIS financial plan. If FTA is right then the City will be short $642 million. And, of course, since then the COR has further reduced it tax collection projections.


Governor to hold panel presentation on rail transit by AIA:

The panel presentation by the American Institute of Architects, Hawaii Chapter, will be held on the 18th of this month from 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM in the State Capitol Auditorium. The subject will be rail transit. This is all that we know at the moment but when we know more we will post it.


Advertiser: "Honolulu rail line may outpace funding":

Today's Advertiser story covers what they gleaned from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. It covers the FTA's concerns about likely shortfalls in the revenues necessary to build the rail project.


date January 4, 2010.

Advertiser:  "New hearings on rail likely":

In a front page article in today's Advertiser they tell us that:

"Supporters, opponents and others with something to say about the city's plan to build a $5.5 billion elevated rail will have a new forum to voice their opinions soon.

"The state is expected to hold public hearings on the environmental impacts of Honolulu's planned rail project. Hearings on the project's final environmental impact statement aren't required. However, hearings are likely, said Russell Pang, spokes-man for Gov. Linda Lingle.

"The hearings would give the public an opportunity to testify on whether the city's plans to mitigate the environmental impacts of the project are adequate. They're also likely to provide a platform for those opposed to the train as well as groups advocating alternatives such as street-level rail or elevated, managed highway lanes."

As soon as we get details we will post them on this website. In the mean time, supporters of alternatives to elevated rail should prepare what they want to present at these hearings.


date January 3, 2010.

Advertiser: "City rail running behind schedule":

"Construction hasn't started — and it's unclear when it will," says the today's Advertiser front page story.

"Construction on Honolulu's planned $5.5 billion elevated train was to have begun in 2009. It didn't.

"Now the city has to sort out whether this initial delay is a minor setback or a sign that the state's biggest public works project may be in trouble.

"The latest challenge for the city is getting federal approval of the project's final environmental impact statement — a milestone that must be passed before construction can begin."

We suggest you read the whole story; they have this right.