Where should rail transit end? The answer is very clear.

By Kirk Caldwell, as published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 3-13-22

Transportation is the lifeblood of any community. All of our people must be able to get from home to work and school, safely and efficiently. Without satisfying this core necessity, Hawaii’s quality of life suffers and our economy falters. This is no dire prediction; we are already experiencing it.

But as our state has grown, our infrastructure has failed to keep up, and we have created transportation “haves” and “have-nots.” There are those who are fortunate enough to live in communities with adequate highway access and workplaces easy to reach (and park), and those forced to drive long distances in heavy traffic, or ride on crowded buses, commuting as long as 3-4 hours every day.

This is simply not fair to countless working families, whether commuting from West O‘ahu to Waikiki or UH, Hilo to Kona, Kahului to Ka‘anapali, Kapa‘a to Poipu, or anywhere else.

Providing better transportation solutions for our citizens must be everyone’s kuleana. On O‘ahu, rail is a critical element to help provide transportation equity to tens of thousands of local families.

Yes, it is a huge investment, just as in the past when the state made huge investments in transportation infrastructure, building the Pali, Wilson and Tetsuo Harano Tunnels, H-1, H-2 and H-3 freeways, and safe, modern highways and bridges on Hawai‘i Island, Maui and Kaua‘i.

We need to complete rail, and invest much, much more in transportation across the state. And with new federal infrastructure funding headed to Hawai‘i, now is the time to take action.

Where should rail end? Close to where those who need it most work and go to school: downtown, Kaka‘ako, UH and Waikiki.

That means rail needs to go all the way to Ala Moana. If we stop short in Kalihi, we will be forced to flood our urban streets with many more buses in order to connect riders with their actual destinations, creating even more traffic on highways and roads, and slowing the commutes of everyone. We won’t have solved anything, and may make things worse.

This is indeed now a state matter since rail funding is largely in the hands of the legislature and there are state-appointed members on HART’s board. Any candidate who tries to pretend otherwise is dodging the issue.

The state should also start working to fund expansion of bus systems on the Neighbor Islands. Together, we’d have much more buying power for vehicles, parts and service equipment than we currently do working alone.

Providing transportation equity also means more investment in our highways, roads and bridges, especially coastal routes already being impacted by climate change and erosion. We need to repair, repave, reroute and, if needed, completely replace these vital roadways to keep people safe and communities connected.

Rail, roads and transportation are vital to our people, our economy and our future. We need to get the job done.