It's Governor Lingle versus Mayor Hannemann on Honolulu Rail Project

» The recession pushes the Governor to argue for changes, including a conversion from heavy rail to light rail; the Mayor of Honolulu stays the course.

At $5.35 billion, it was bound to provoke a fight.

Honolulu’s planned heavy rail transit system, which would run 20.2 miles between East Kapolei and Ala Mona Center by 2019, is expected to serve more than 100,000 daily riders along its 21-station elevated guideway. That is, if the city is able to secure a federal New Starts Full Funding Grant Agreement as planned in 2011, and as long as it is capable of maintaining adequate tax revenue to pay for the line.

That’s where Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle (R), now in the last year of her second term, and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann (D), in the second year of his second term, strongly disagree. Whereas Mr. Hannemann is a strong proponent of the rail system and has campaigned repeatedly on behalf of the multi-billion-dollar project, Ms. Lingle — whose approval for the line is ultimately necessary for construction to begin — has become an opponent, arguing that it will be a top-heavy burden for the city’s taxpayers.

Though the line has been under consideration since the 1970s, Honolulu’s combined city/county council finally approved a financing mechanism and an alignment in 2005, with a 0.5% sales tax to pay for the project going into effect in 2007. Voters affirmed the project’s construction in a special referendum in November 2008 just as they were reelecting Mr. Hannemann. The Federal Transit Administration moved the project into preliminary engineering in summer 2009; construction is to begin later this year.

Yet Governor Lingle, who supported the project earlier in her career, is now making the rail line a political issue. With more than 70% of Hawaii’s population living in Honolulu County (co-terminus with the Island of Oahu), Ms. Lingle made clear last week that it is in the state’s best interest to move the project forward in a way that reflects the effects of the current recession, specifically a lower tax base. To support her position, the Governor is planning to play host next week to a conference by the American Institute of Architects’ Honolulu chapter, which is opposed to the project in its current form. She will also visit Washington in February to discuss the project with the FTA because of her conviction that Mr. Hannemann’s administration has been advancing a scheme for which the city will ultimately be unable to pay.

Ms. Lingle’s cost-cutting position is informed by the proposals being put forward by the AIA: Move the planned elevated rail line to ground level and convert from automated heavy rail technology to a light rail system powered by overhead catenary.

Mr. Hannemann has laughed away the term-limited Governor’s suggestions, but the Mayor will need to solidify his position if he intends to get his project off the ground. The FTA has repeatedly questioned whether the city will be able to fund the project. Because Honolulu is expecting New Starts grants, however, to cover only 29% of total costs (about $1.55 billion), the federal agency has continued to push forward the program with a “medium” cost-effectiveness rating. Despite falling tax revenue, the city has not had to adjust the project’s size significantly because of lower-than-expected construction contract costs.

As a result, the Mayor’s ambition for a rail line whose first phase would go into service in 2012 seems likely to be fulfilled, unless Ms. Lingle is able to raise enough concern at the FTA to put a halt to plans. For the sake of the mobility of Honolulu’s population, one hopes that she fails.

Indeed, it has become increasingly obvious that Ms. Lingle’s objections have as much to do with the project’s design as they do with its financing; the FTA has gotten better in recent years in getting transit project costs under control, and the Honolulu line does have more than $1 billion in contingencies built in already. The Governor’s support of a light rail alternative over the elevated heavy rail line planned would result in a far less-used project that would do far less to affect the island’s commuting patterns.

With the majority of its residents and workforce concentrated along its curved southern coast, Honolulu has an almost ideal population distribution for a major grade-separated transit line. As shown in the map below, density follows a thin corridor paralleling the coastline, a result of the protected mountain reserves north of the city center. The H-1 highway, the only major arterial that runs in the area and therefore the road that carries the majority of island automobile movement, is perpetually traffic-clogged. It would be very difficult to either expand the road or add bus rapid transit lanes because of the built-up nature of the areas around the road. The rail line would follow that linear density.

Ms. Lingle’s solution, which would transfer the elevated line to an on-the-ground light rail corridor, would potentially reduce the price of the line by more than half. But the street-running system promoted by the AIA would eliminate most of the time-saving advantages of the train. The planned system would reduce average transit commutes from Western Oahu to the urban core from 95 minutes today to 65 minutes, a massive improvement due to the 3 minute peak headways to be offered by the fast automated trains unaffected by interfering traffic. Light rail operating in the street, even with its own right-of-way, would be far slower; for example, the 20-mile Phoenix light rail system takes 1h05 to complete its journey, versus the 42 minutes projected for Honolulu’s slightly longer line.

If Honolulu’s estimates of 116,000 daily riders by 2030 seems unrealistic considering that the Phoenix line only attracts about 40,000, the 23-minute (35%) difference in travel time to be offered by the Hawaiian system may indicate that those numbers are too low; Vancouver’s heavy rail Canada Line, only 12 miles long and operating in a less dense area, is already attracting about 100,000 daily riders just a few months after opening. The fact that Honolulu’s population is heavily concentrated in single corridor that is expected to have 760,000 residents and 500,000 jobs by 2030 can’t hurt. Fourteen miles of planned extensions into Waikiki and to the University of Hawaii-Manoa will make the project all the more valuable.

A repeat of the situation in Miami and San Juan, the most recent American cities to build single-corridor heavy rail systems, seems unlikely, meaning that Honolulu shouldn’t hesitate in pushing forward its program. In each of those cities, lines were built at huge prices, but ridership has fallen significantly below expectations.

But the differences are substantial: neither of those projects managed to reach the urban core, significantly limiting work-based ridership; meanwhile, both Miami and San Juan are spread out in several directions from downtown, meaning that one transit line won’t solve many commuting problems. Honolulu’s uniquely linear development will make its rail line useful for a huge percentage of commutes, especially because trains will be substantially faster than automobiles following similar paths on congested roadways.

But those speeds will be only possible with a completely grade-separated line. Mayor Hannemann has to ensure that his vision of a truly rapid transit line is realized. Similarly, he must fight for the construction of all of the project’s 20.2 miles; since the line will only enter downtown in the final planned phase in 2019, it will not acquire its full utility until then. Once it does, however, the advantages of a grade-separated heavy rail line will be made manifest by the large number of commuters switching from their cars onto the train.

Of course, the AIA’s concerns about the visual impact of the line have some merit; there is little beautiful about the planned elevated structure (though the stations should be interesting). There are still plenty of ways to improve the project. As Jarrett Walker notes, elevated lines can add to the urban landscape, but as currently designed, the Honolulu project won’t do much.

Even if Honolulu does build the rail line with its ugly concrete pillars and guideway, though, it will offer far more benefits to the daily lives of Hawaiians than the at-grade light rail project Governor Lingle is now advocating, which will attract far fewer passengers because of its slower speeds. One hopes her objections are a simply a distraction before construction begins.

Images above: Planned Honolulu Rail Transit Map, from City of Honolulu; Population Density per Square Mile in Southern Oahu, from Social Explorer

53 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • orulz

    Honolulu traffic really is terrible. A true rapid transit line would do wonders.

    IMO the only really regrettable part about the line being elevated is that it skirts the CBD to the south along Nimitz Highway. It will therefore be a barrier between the CBD and the waterfront, and will also result in a longer walk for lots of people going to jobs.

    A subway like Vancouver’s would have been nice. They studied several options that called for burying up to 1 mile of the line through Chinatown and the CBD, but all those options were rejected (unsure why – cost?)

    If tax revenue increases maybe they’ll be able to reconsider the underground option? That would alleviate many of AIA’s concerns.

  • Brandi

    Great to see a rapid transit line being built in a city as small as Honolulu. The density map makes it look like the prime corridor for a line. Let’s hope they keep it rapid transit because that usually attracts more riders and has greater affects on traffic than a street running line. Should be even more popular since gas costs so much there. Looks like on the website there may be future extensions to Waikiki and University of Hawaii. Those extensions would provide some nice weekend users probably. Anyways let’s hope the mayor comes through for the win. Also why did San Juan and Miami not do so well? Those are huge cities so I’m guessing they are probably poorly located and poorly interconnected.

  • Dan K.

    Hope the misguided plan to convert to surface LRT fails; Honolulu’s transport issues demand traffic-separated heavy rail. A subway would be preferable, but building subways in the U.S. seems to be almost politically impossible nowadays, despite advances in tunnel-boring that make it cheaper than in the past.

    Reaching the urban core is paramount, which is why Miami and San Juan didn’t do as well as they might have otherwise. Current thinking seems to be to place the tracks in the places it’s cheapest and easiest to build (Atlanta building along freeway medians, for example), rather than where they would get the most ridership or help the most people.

  • Justin Bernard

    For the record, much of the Canada Line’s ridership is existing bus riders. And the system is already at, or near capacity. If they are going to build a metro system, I would just build a full metro, rather than an automated light metro.

  • AndyDuncan

    Maybe she should just exempt the line from environmental review. Worked great lasttime.

  • Karl Tingwald

    Yonah,

    I think it’s important to note that the Honolulu Rail Transit Project is different from those in Miami and San Juan in that the technology chosen is not true metro. The line is a grade-separated light rail line like the Metro Green Line in Los Angeles, limiting capacity and (possibly) including overhead catenary power, which would be an additional eyesore above and beyond the elevated viaducts. Perhaps a Canada Line-style light metro with third rail power would be more effective.

  • Yonah, the price you quote for the project is $165 million per route-km. For reference, European subways typically cost $250 million, raising the question of why Honolulu can’t get costs under control.

    Brandi, the Miami project goes too far into suburbia. If you have money for 20-30 route-km, it’s usually better to build 2-3 shorter inner urban lines and plan to expand them out than to build one long line and plan to add more lines. San Juan, I’m not sure about.

  • What is sad is that if light rail is chosen instead, tens or even hundreds of millions spent so far will be wasted and the project would be delayed by years. With escalating construction costs, the cost of a surface line would end up being similar to that of the elevated line built today.

    Justin, btw, the Canada Line is nowhere near capacity. By adding more trains, the capacity can be almost doubled. By extending the stations, which can be done for relatively little cost, the capacity can be expanded by another 50% or so. It should be able to handle around 300,000 per day. I agree it would have been better to build it to a higher capacity. The problem was all the doubters at the time thought that the ridership estimates were unrealistic.

    As well, the bus ridership was between 50,000 and 60,000 per day while the ridership for the Canada Line is over 90,000 per day. That is an increase of at least 50% and the line has only been running for 4 months. Don’t forget that ridership was around 70,000 per day BEFORE the parallel bus routes were cancelled.

  • Max Wyss

    Karl Tingwald: Third rail operation requires (definitely in the US) a completely separated right of way, whereas a system with overhead wires would allow for ground level operation. This would give more flexibility for potential extensions (because even if on its own right of way, it would not have to be on viaduct or underground). Assuming that the speeds would not be much above 80 km/h, a light rail catenary system could be used, which allows for quite unobstrusive masts on one side with cantilevered support beams.

  • Third rail systems can and do have grade crossings, for example on the LIRR and Chicago L, and for many decades on the New York City Subway and Staten Island Railway. It’s just less convenient than with catenary. I think it boils down to how wide the road the system crosses at grade can be.

    Conversely, some urban rail systems do use catenary, for examples the S-Bahns, most Tokyo subway lines, the Shanghai Metro, and the Northeast Line in Singapore.

  • Karl -
    I could be wrong, but based on the PDF here (http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/assets/pdf/M114970118.PDF), the project will be third rail powered.

    Alon -
    You’re right, it’s incredibly expensive.

  • It should be noted that at $165 million/km, the project compares similarly to the Dulles Metro Phase I project, which will run 17 km and cost $2.6 billion, making it $153 million/km. That project will only have five stations (compared to 10 on a similar-length Honolulu segment), though it will have a short underground segment through Tysons Corner.

  • Andy K

    So why are European systems so much less? Is it labor costs, materials, or does it have to do with standards and practices? These are all low bid contracts.

  • Lou

    why cant the government make a combo system… light rail in the burbs (cheaper) with as few grade crossings as possible and turn into a subway downtown (more expensive). makes the price even out in the end. everyone’s happy.

  • Yonah, the underground segment through Tysons is probably the budget buster in Washington. That I don’t mind so much – Tysons needs that subway.

    Andy, the explanation of German rail expert Hans-Joachim Zierke is that Anglo-American practice is to let consultants run the show, which doubles costs. Rail construction is expensive in Britain, too. For example, the almost fully-underground Jubilee Line Extension cost $460 million per km in inflation-adjusted dollars; the fully-underground Paris Metro Line 14 cost $250 million per km, and so did line U55 in Berlin. (However, bear in mind that the Jubilee Line Extension crosses underwater 4 times in 16 km versus once in 7.5 km for Line 14, so London could have a valid reason for part of the cost escalation).

  • jon

    The Mayor’s ambition for a rail line whose first phase would go into service in 2012 seems likely to be fulfilled.
    How on earth could they have the first phase open by 2012, even if it was 1/4 mile long it seems impossible.

    Yeah to second what as Alon said, it is kind of odd they went with 1 long line into the suburbs with poor downtown coverage rather than focusing on the urban areas (and leaving out Waikiki and University of Hawaii to later phases).

    Just build it right from the start so it can increase capacity later if need be. Lets hope it doesnt fall into the footsteps of the Seattle Monorail project just before it died when the platforms and trains were shrunk to only 2 cars (plus fat columns). Build the line shorter if you have to but to greatly under build the platforms is lunacy.

    I do wish we saw more heavy rail transit lines built in the US/Canada, we’re mostly lucky now to even get LRT.

    I was wondering if those at-grade third rail systems are essentially grandfathered in (whether officially or not), I really cant see those being built today like that. The lawyers, insurance, NIMBYs and safety paranoid would never allow it. Caltrain has a hard enough time keeping people from getting hit by their trains, imagine all the idiots who would get fried on the tracks if they were 3rd rail.

  • Allen

    @Yonah
    Is there a reason why LRT and “heavy rail” numbers for this line were not used? As you know, comparing the elevated rail in Honolulu to Phoenix LRT’s proves nothing. Did Honolulu actually not do a study comparing the two?

  • Allen -
    I’m not sure exactly how to respond to your question, but the comparison with Phoenix that I included in the article was meant to demonstrate the advantages of building a transit project in its own, full-protected right-of-way. Namely, Honolulu will be able to run its trains over 20 miles in just over 40 minutes, compared to the more than an hour required by Phoenix’s trains.

  • Is there any technical reason why subway is not preferred in Honolulu (i.e. high water table etc)? Or is it really just cost issue?

  • OMG you finally mentioned San Juan. I could’ve sworn TTP and Infrastructurist were ignoring our metro system.

    If I could just add this tad bit. The projections for the San Juan metro were for the entire 4-line system. If only 8/9 of the one of the four phases got built, how on Earth was anyone expecting more than 100,000 riders?!?!? I heard the same thing happened in Miami.

    The current line runs through lots of suburbs but it was bult first because it is the backbone of the system and it would connect the other three lines together.

    The cost of this 17 km (10.6 miles) first phase was $500 million overbudget at $2 billion. However, many things could’ve been done to prevent such hight cost overruns. The project took twice as long to build, though I can’t say for sure what could have caused it. So many things have been said whether it’s government bureaucracy or labor costs.

    The government isn’t pushing for the completion of the system either. And remember, these four lines are part of a system. They aren’t expansions. They should’ve been built from the beginning.

    Now, I have to watch how Santo Domingo is going to complete their six line system while our government doesn’t give a darn because everyone on this island has a car and no one cares about efficiency or urban planning.

    If there’s one thing I learned from reading your website, Yonah, it’s that you can’t build a transit system without help from the government, and if there’s no political will, there’s no metro system.

    =(

    Thanks for mentioning San Juan, really appreciate it.

    PS. Remember they’re going to build a streetcar to connect Old San Juan with the metro system soon!

  • jon

    davsot, the way i’ve heard many people including yourself talk about san juan residents, i get the sense they are more wedded to their cars than sun belt americans, is this true, or not very far off the mark? i mean afterall people said transit would never work in phoenix, dallas, LA and houston.

  • I was under the same impression Karl was…that this system was going to be LRT and not heavy rail. Albeit fully grade-separated LRT.

  • I don’t have an opinion about Honolulu, but I do want to correct one factual error: it is simply NOT the case that Miami’s Metro Rail “failed to reach the urban core.” Metro Rail has two stops in downtown Miami (where I lived in the early 1990s), and is complemented by MetroMover, a kind of miniature train that takes people around downtown.

    (Perhaps Mr. Freemark is thinking of TriRail, a commuter rail system which primarily serves suburban Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and runs only to the outermost tip of the more urban Dade County- but the system proposed in Honolulu is much more analogous to Metro Rail than to TriRail, a commuter train system which extends for 70 miles north-south but has much more limited service than the basically urban Metro Rail system).

  • Michael -
    Thanks for your point, you’re right there — Miami’s system does have stations downtown. I was referring to MetroRail, but I my comment about not hitting the urban core was meant for San Juan (I’m sorry about that mistake). Nonetheless, the point about one line not being enough in a metropolis spread out in many directions (unlike linear Honolulu) still pertains to Miami.

  • Jayson L

    I’ve heard the FTA speak about this project quite favorably. However, it only makes sense if it’s grade separated. The HI governor would be squandering political capital if she continues to argue for an at-grade option when the feds are already in support of grade-separated. Most regions try and fail to get FTA on-board with this type of project.

    The FTA cost measure of “medium” means that the annualized cost of this project is less than $25 per hour of travel time saved per year. There are many more factors that should go into cost effectiveness that aren’t, such as household transportation costs going down when people are able to shed one or more cars, more reliable transportation options, and less of the Honolulu core being devoted to parking, allowing land to be better utilized for economic-producing activities.

  • @ Jon Yes, PRicans love their cars (except for me, lol). But one thing they’re even better at is choosing the wrong home to live in. No one lives in the city anymore. The suburbs are killing Puerto Rico from the inside. This uncontrolled development authorized by the government is simply incentive for people to drive their cars, especially in the absence of public transportation. San Juan has the only state subsidized pt, all other municipalities have to pay for their own, and very few if any have fixed schedules, further tarnishing the image of public transportation. Most officials will go on record to say rail is the way to go for the future, but they do little if anything about it. And if there’s one thing Puerto Rico is lacking for mass transit, it’s political will.

    @ Yonah San Juan has many urban cores, and I could argue that the system does have like 3 stations along the Golden Mile, San Juan’s financial district with lots of office towers and banking offices headquartered there. That would be considered one urban core. Another is the very historic Santurce District, which many consider downtown but since San Juan is so sprawled out. Gahh! Phase I would have reached this district but since the last two stations were left out at the last moment, it was never built and therefore was indeed lacking.

    After projects like these take off, does the Federal government show any interest in continuing the project? Because with the change in state administration we have lost all political will to finish the system. The current administration wants to build a new transit system with BRT because it’s cheaper and I do mean cheaper because I don’t believe the short-term benefits outweigh the long-term benefits.

  • Shame on the governor. Granted the project is not perfect and will really lack riders if it doesn’t go all the way to Waikiki. Even if it slowed it down a little it also seems like a major oversight to skip most of downtown!

  • Robby

    @Nick aster — the rail project does go through downtown Honolulu. It connects West Oahu (where new homes and businesses will be built), with downtown and the urban center near Waikiki. there are plans to go to Waikiki, but it will take a while.

    I live in Honolulu and and believe that the rail will happen. People voted for it in 2008 and we are are so, so sick of the growing traffic congestion Oahu. But it is truly a shame that the governor is treating this major infrastructure project like a political chip. Her lieutenant governor will run for her seat this year (she is term limited), and its 99% certain he will run against the Mayor. So the governor wants to knee-cap the Mayor by trying to kill rail, which the Mayor has championed.

    Plus, the governor is a republican and the mayor is a democrat, so there’s that drama. Meanwhile, the traffic continues to get worse on Oahu every day.

  • it is simply NOT the case that Miami’s Metro Rail “failed to reach the urban core.” Metro Rail has two stops in downtown Miami (where I lived in the early 1990s), and is complemented by MetroMover, a kind of miniature train that takes people around downtown.

    Two downtown stops is barely even acceptable for commuter rail. For urban rail, it’s what makes projects fail. Good urban rail has many downtown stops, coming from multiple directions, and serves urban neighborhoods first and the suburbs second. It emphasizes intra-city connectivity instead of trying to get people from the suburbs downtown.

  • John

    If San Juan has a heavy-rail metro, then so should Honolulu. Having visited the city numerous times, and having to wait in the horrific traffic out of the airport, I can certainly say that this city needs a metro — not a light rail, but true heavy.

  • Thad

    @ Alon: you obviously have never been to downtown Miami. The Metromover connects all the places of interest Downtown to the Metrorail at Government Center and Brickell. They are automated cars with 1 minute headways during peak hours and 3 min. headways off peak. The problem isn’t getting around downtown, it’s getting there in the first place. It doesn’t go far enough into the suburbs, especially in areas like West Kendall, South Dade County, Aventura, and North Miami-Dade.

  • Nathanael

    Honolulu’s system looks likely to be a big winner. It’s crucial that they build a fully-grade-separated fully-automated system, because they’re going to end up running a lot of trains on very tight headways.

    Ideally, the elevated would be designed to be filled in with shops underneath it, except where roads cross it — this is an elegant and attractive way of building elevateds.

  • The Metromover connects all the places of interest Downtown to the Metrorail at Government Center and Brickell. They are automated cars with 1 minute headways during peak hours and 3 min. headways off peak.

    How are the transfers from Metrorail to Metromover? I’m going to make a guess that those transfers are not cross-platform, and involve buying extra tickets and walking some distance. In essence, it’s a snazzier version of making people transfer from commuter rail to a bus or a heritage streetcar. And, I’m sorry, commuter rail without true local rail – not downtown-only people movers, but neighborhood-to-neighborhood LRT and subways – is a tried and failed strategy.

    The problem isn’t getting around downtown, it’s getting there in the first place.

    Anywhere else in the world, high ridership correlates with greater network density at the expense of service to the exurbs. This should be especially true in Miami, which has one of the most decentralized employment patterns in the US.

  • nick

    if you want people to use rail instead of cars you have to make them as accessible and convenient compared with the car as possible, and take you as close to your destination as possible, even if that takes a bit longer.

    The best way of taking people from where they live to where they need to go is by a tram or trolley where they just get on and off on the street.

    People arent moles they dont like being undeground nor having to have to ascend in the air. Overground lines are ugly and like tunnels remove people from street level where they probably feel more secure.

    There is obviously a point where the number of passengers carried may indicate that a normal rail link is preferred but light rail is less expensive and better than a bus.s better to

  • Nick, you’re right. All those subways and els in New York and London and Tokyo are so hideous that nobody rides them.

  • nick uk

    Alon youre right 1 billion people ride the underground here in London but they would prefer not to

  • nick uk

    cos I said people didnt like subways I didnt say they did not use them !”

    And elevated sections of road or rail are an ugly scar and tend to divide downtown areas and make the surroundings a bit overshadowed

  • Thad

    To transfer from metrorail to metromover, you just go down the escalator to the next platform. Metromover is free, which makes it even more convenient. Plus the stops are about every 2-3 blocks so it connects you to everything downtown. And like you said, Miami is very decentralized, which is why more extensions need to made like the north corridor. Miami-Dade County is very dense except further out closer to the everglades.

  • Thad

    I also wanted to mention that Miami’s actual city limits are very small and the suburbs are just as dense as the city itself. You have to had live there to know that Miami isn’t like every other typical sprawl city.

  • Nick: there’s no way to carry a billion people a year in London except on the Underground. Surface rail’s capacity doesn’t come close.

    Thad: escalators aren’t the nicest of transfers.

    Extending further out to the suburbs is not useful in a decentralized city, because of speed issues. Actually serving those job centers is very difficult, because they’re often laid in a way that’s hostile to transit. Good transit destinations are on the right of way, while good highway-oriented edge cities are set back from the freeway slightly and surrounded by parking lots. In fact I don’t know of a single edge city in North America where transit mode share is higher than 10%.

    I know Miami is ringed by dense suburbs. Those suburbs should be served by multiple rail lines, connecting dense suburb to dense suburb and not just to downtown.

    • Thad

      My point about the transfers was that they aren’t inconvenient to riders; it’s not like you have to walk a block to make them, you just go to the next level.

      I don’t know why you threw in edge cities, seeing how Miami doesn’t have a bunch of stereotypical edge cities (mainly because we have only 4 exressways that aren’t even sufficent).

      Yes Miami should have rail lines connecting various destinations, that was my point. The lines should be built on major thoroughfares and resemble a web.

      • Miami is full of edgeless cities, which are like edge cities but less clustered. See explanation by Robert Lang and Jennifer LeFurgy.

      • Thad

        You call random two story office buildings on main streets edgeless cities? They are just random little office buildings where people have their small law firms and medical practices. They’re not huge office complexes that pop up sporadically. Really I think that Miami should build projects along heavily trafficked main streets like Kendall Drive, Bird Road, 107th Ave, and so on.

      • Random office buildings on main streets are secondary downtowns, not edgeless cities. Edgeless cities consist of random office parks near arterial roads in the suburbs. Most of South Florida is not Miami.

      • Thad

        I live in South Florida, I know most of it isn’t Miami. And as a resident when I say random office buildings I mean there are litteraly random little office condo developments dispersed amongst strip malls and housing subdivisions along the street not office park clusters and no where near being considred a secondary downtown. The only real office park clusters are where the Burger King headquarters is on the otherside of the Dolphin across from the Airport, Dadeland, and around Aventura and Doral. For secondary downtowns I would probably look at Coral Gables, the Beach, and the Grove. I wish I was back at home so I could go out and take pictures so you could see what I’m talking about.

  • cph

    There was talk about a Honolulu rapid transit system since the late 1980s, if not before.

    Re: Puerto Rico: Outside of San Juan and vicinity, there is very little public transit as such. Intercity trips, which would be covered by Greyhound, etc. elsewhere, are handled by “carros publicos” (jitney vans) running between the central plaza of each town. These services are not particularly well promoted, especially for occasional users or tourists, and schedules are somewhat erratic.

    I read somewhere that Ponce had a four-line bus system, using fake trolleys.

    San Juan used to have a surface rail system (streetcars?) a long time ago. The stops (paradas) were numbered, and eventually, the neighborhood near the stops took on names such as “Parada 18″ or “Parada 22″, etc. and the names stuck long after the streetcar rails had been pulled up.
    (One of these “paradas” had a long-time reputation as a red-light district…)

  • Parada = Stop

    San Juan, Mayagüez and Ponce all used to have electric streetcars running everywhere. So they are trying to bring them back. It is rather peculiar how the numbered stop names are still used today to describe exactly where in Santurce something is located.

    Here’s a good page on that

    http://tramz.com/pr/sj.html

    “Carros públicos” are independently operated vans that transport people all over the Island. There are no schedules or standards of service. The government plans to begin regulating them this year.

    There was talk of a metro system for Puerto Rico since the 1960′s when the Federal government offered the money to build it but the Puerto Rican government wanted to reduce congestion by building massive highways instead.

  • egk

    You are definitely on the wrong side of this one. The Kamehameha School study comparing an at grade light rail alternative to the proposed elevated system shows comparable travel times, comparable capacity, half the cost, reduced visual impact, and – most importantly – significantly better access.

    Access is really the key to successful transit. Access times for elevated and subways can be as much as two or three minutes, meaning that for many trips the at-grade system would be faster in total point to point times (according the the study’s estimates). There is a reason people love streetcars: they are easy to get on, and are right where you are, issues that are magnified for people with strollers, bikes and for the elderly and the disabled.

    Elevated structures (and subways) are built not for transit users, but to avoid impacting other surface traffic, trading off reduced access for transit users for unimpeded automobility.

    • Thad

      The station plans clearly show that these stations will be ADA accessible. The only way that travel times could be comparable would be if the street-running options had grade-separated road crossings and were in their own designated lanes with no cars.

  • egk

    Access doesn’t mean ADA access. Access refers to how easy is it to get to the train or bus (for everyone). Subways and elevated lines are less accessible (in this sense), because of the stairs, escalators, gates, elevators, limited points of entry – things that make it inconvenient to take a subway one or two stops, but not a streetcar.

    And yes, eliminating a lane or two of private vehicles in the central business district to speed street running is a good idea, and beats building an overpriced one-off system that is too expensive to expand.

    That streetcar comparison study:
    http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/assets/pdf/transit_kamehamehatransit_20090916.pdf (and if you read the city’s response you will note that the primary concern is the effects on vehicular traffic)

    • Thad

      Well obviously we were talking about two different things. Street running on the eastern end of the line wouldn’t be a big deal but I thought you were suggesting that the WHOLE 20 mile route run in the street which is what the governor is suggesting. I’ve never been to Honolulu, but in the major cities I’ve lived in, downtown traffic congestion usually isn’t the problem, it’s the traffic along the highways and major routes leading to downtown. So taking away a lane in the downtown area doesn’t really impact commute times and the close proximity of the stations means that people can use it as away of getting around downtown as well as getting to downtown.

  • I agree that a much more affordable solution is available by using Light Rail, and ‘Cut Costs Combine:’

    OR&L line + Light Rail + Bike Plan = 1/5 of $5.5 billion

    We’d cut the cost of rail and go to Nanakuli, Ko Olina, heart of Kapolei, Ewa, and reach real sources of traffic.

    Please see my website:

    rocogop.blogspot.com

    Thank You!

    John Roco

  • Ocean Railroader

    I rememeber hearing that this island had a large streetcar network it might be cheaper to have that come back and run it on less heaver bridges maybe something light weight like the EL in Chicogo instead of those big bulky cement monsters they want to put in. But if they did do a old fashion EL track bridge they would have to make it out of stainless steel to stop it from rusting int he ocean air.

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