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Alt Rail plan could be completed with existing funds

"Salvage the Rail" group releases alternative Honolulu route map for a street level plan that would save taxpayers from a GET surcharge extension

Salvage the Rail today released a route map showing street level rail through downtown Honolulu. The map also shows extension routes to Waikiki and the University of Hawaii.

“Some of the things HART and others are asserting about street level rail in Honolulu are wildly inaccurate,” said Scott Wilson. Wilson was Chair of the AIA Transit Task Force from 2009–12 and Chair of the AIA Regional & Urban Design Committee from 2011–16. “We want the public to know that running street level rail from Middle Street through downtown can be done with the $6.8 billion in existing funding. There is no need for a General Excise Tax (GET) surcharge extension to complete rail. Rail can be completed 4 years faster, with far less construction impacts, and lower operating and maintenance costs in the future. This is not wishful thinking. It is based on current data from the 38 other cities in the U.S. using light rail.”

The proposed route would pick up from elevated rail at Middle Street, run along King Street, looping around at Alapai street and returning on Beretania Street. The Downtown route could be completed with the $6.8 billion (already collected and GET surcharge revenue projected through 2027).

Optional extension routes to Waikiki and the University of Hawaii could be made at a cost of $139 million per mile and would surmount the technical impossibility of extending the planned elevated route from Ala Moana Center due to the 90-foot overpass required over the old Nordstrom building.

The group lists several “myths” about Rail currently being circulated with its explanations of why these statements are false:

Myth: Street level rail would require the digging of a 4–8 foot trench 30 feet wide and have huge construction impacts downtown.

Truth: To lay a set of tracks construction would be 14 inches deep by 8 feet wide, which is the same depth as normal road construction. This would not require purchase of any additional land. Existing streets could be used. Because these streets have already been excavated, the issue of new archeological finds is not applicable. Street level rail stations are not bigger than a bus stop, requiring only a canopy for rain shelter and small ticket machine on an existing sidewalk.

In contrast, building elevated rail through downtown Honolulu would create enormous construction impacts since entire roadways will need to be cut open to pour underground spread foundations to support the weight of the elevated guideway. Constructing the football-field sized stations planned for elevated rail would create immense disruption to nearby structures, traffic and businesses downtown.

Myth: Changing the plan now would result in a loss of federal funding, and slow or halt the rail project.

Truth: The Federal Transit Authority (FTA) has already listed street level rail as an acceptable option to complete the route to downtown. The Recovery Plan sent to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit (HART) officials by the FTA in June 2016 lists six options for completion in order to receive $1.55 billion in federal funding. The FTA does not dictate what rail technology is used. Option 2A in the Recovery Plan reads, “Build to Middle Street as planned and continue with at-grade rail system.” In September 2016, the FTA clarified that the route could extend to downtown (Aloha Tower) at a minimum in order to qualify for federal funding.

With any major change in route, a supplement to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed. However, this does not take the same amount of time as a full EIS. For example, in March 2010, the city changed the route of the rail at the airport because it was too close to the runways. The EIS was modified in a matter of 3 months and the revised EIS was submitted in June.

Even taking the time to make technical adjustments and put new plans in place, the project could be completed 4 years faster because of the speed with which street level rail tracks can be laid.

Myth: Street level rail will be slowed to the speed of automobile traffic.

Truth: The Middle Street-to-Downtown segment would be slower by 2-3 minutes (depending on length of final route). Signal synchronization can be used so that the street level trains can maintain 30-mile-per-hour speed through downtown, nearly the same speed as elevated rail. Managed lanes (for trains and busses only) keep trains running independent of automobile traffic speeds, and also greatly increase safety.

Myth: A street level system through downtown will result in loss of ridership capacity.

Truth: Making a technical change to car design to have 3 instead of 4 cars per train can be made up for by increasing frequency at peak times to every 5 instead of 6 minutes.

A route through downtown Honolulu would deliver riders to their places of work. Instead of just a commuter rail, it would be a true urban transit system, attracting additional riders who want to travel through the city center’s intense employment areas. Very few commuters from West Oahu have an end destination of the few stops planned along Nimitz Highway or Ala Moana Center.


“The mayor’s financial plan is for taxpayers to write him a blank check. In return, absolutely no public financial reporting has been released by HART, and cost estimates keep going up,” write the authors of the alternate plan. “Using the proposed street level route, the city already has enough funds to complete the project using existing GET surcharge money through 2027, without imposing more taxes. This would save 4 years of construction time and $3-4 billion dollars. It’s time to salvage the rail.”

High resolution route map and other downloadable images are available at www.SalvageTheRail.org/media.html

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Services for Dana Rae Park will be held this Saturday, March 4, 2017, 1:30-4 pm at the Atherton YMCA (formerly YWCA) Auditorium, 1820 University Avenue, Honolulu Hawaiʻi, 96822. Call (808) 256-6637 for more information.

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End of Life Forum: options for the terminally ill

As Hawaii’s population ages, what ought to be done at the end of life is becoming a matter of great concern to the state. To explore the options available to those with a terminal illness, the University of Hawaii’s Public Policy Center and the Matsunaga Institute for Peace are sponsoring a moderated panel discussion on Thursday, February 23 on the topic, “End of Life: Public Policy for the Terminally Ill.” The forum, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Hawaii State Capitol Auditorium, includes Attorney General Douglas Chin, Dr. Charles Miller and John Radcliffe of Compassion and Choices Hawaii, and Dr. Craig Nakatsuka and Joy Yadao of Hawaii’s Partnership for Appropriate and Compassionate Care. The panel will be moderated by Judge Michael Broderick (Ret.), the President and CEO of the YMCA of Honolulu. 

Advances in medicine mean that more local residents are caring for relatives in their final days and are facing difficult decisions about their illnesses and death. Furthermore, 100 million Americans have a chronic disease, and a growing number of these chronically-ill people are asking for the right to take their own lives. The intent of the forum is to identify the various positions, and in the process consider the consequences of alternative public policies for the terminally ill in an environment of tolerance and respect.

Judge Broderick is the former director of the Judiciary’s Center for Alternative Resolution, the former Administrative Director of the State Courts, and a former Family Court Judge where he presided over more than 10,000 cases involving every type of family dispute. Over the course of his career, Judge Broderick has moderated or facilitated public and/or televised forums on many controversial issues, including commercial leasehold, siting of public facilities, the State Hospital, homelessness, race, discrimination and identity politics in Hawaii, and the Akaka bill. He currently is the President and CEO of the YMCA of Honolulu.

Douglas Chin graduated from Stanford University and received his law degree from the University of Hawaii. Chin joined the Honolulu prosecutor’s office in 1996, where he tried approximately fifty jury cases to verdict. From 2010 to 2013, under Honolulu mayor Peter B. Carlisle, Chin served as managing director for the city and county of Honolulu. From 2013 to 2015, Chin was a law partner and eventual managing partner at Carlsmith Ball, one of the oldest and largest law firms in the state of Hawaii. Hawaii Governor David Ige appointed Chin to become the state’s Attorney General in January 2015. He was unanimously confirmed by the state senate on March 15, 2015.

Dr. Charles Miller is a retired oncologist, board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology. He is one of the founding members of the Physician Advisory Council for Aid in Dying (PACAID) for Compassion & Choices. He served for 30 years in the U.S. Army Medical Department, was chief consultant to the Surgeon General and spent nine years as chief of hematology at Kaiser Medical Center in Honolulu. He is a member of the Hawaii Society of Clinical Oncology and serves as the State Affiliate Representative to the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. Craig Nakatsuka is an internist who recently retired after 34 years of service from Kaiser Medical Group. He has spent the past decade in the work of long-term care and palliative care. Most recently, he spent time mentoring health care teams in providing patient-centered care, one of his greatest joys. He is a spokesperson for Hawaii’s Partnership for Appropriate Compassion and Care.

John Radcliffe, stage 4 terminal cancer patient and advocate for medical aid in dying in Hawaii, is Co-founder & President Emeritus of Capitol Consultants of Hawaii. He is a veteran union leader, educator, writer, speaker, lecturer, and governmental and political action specialist. During the past three decades he has been involved in more political campaigns in Hawaii than virtually any other person. He’s been an active lobbyist at the state and national level for forty years.

Joy Yadao is a registered nurse with over 25 years of experience in nursing leadership and in the specialties of pediatrics, oncology, case management, end-of-life care, advanced care planning and healthcare quality. Joy is the former Executive Director of the St. Francis Hospice and Palliative Care Program and was the former Hawaii Clinical Improvement Coach for the CMS Partnership for Patients program. Joy is currently managing an Advance Care Planning initiative recently funded by Medicare and is a founding board member of Kokua Mau, Hawaii’s Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public.

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How to think about Hawaiian Electric’s profits

Kathryn Mykleseth, reporting for the Star-Advertiser:

On Tuesday the parent company of the state’s largest electrical utility reported a profit of $44.6 million, or 41 cents per share, compared with $42.3 million, or 39 cents a share, for the same period in 2015.

Or to put it another way: Hawaii could have saved $44.6 million in the last quarter if the Hawaiian Electric companies were publicly-controlled or were run in a not-for-profit model.

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