Light Rail Follies #5: An Objective Panel

by Randal O’Toole The Antiplanner, December 14, 2007

The Honolulu city council wants to build a rail line. Yet many people in Honolulu think this would be a waste of money, and they are pushing for high-occupancy toll lanes, that can be used by autos and bus-rapid transit, instead. So, to cover its you-know-what, the city council plans to create an “objective panel” of five advisers who will review the alternatives and select the final plan.

Who will be on the panel? A list of people being considered includes a vice president of Bechtel, a former vice president of Siemens, a former Parsons Brinckerhoff planner, and numerous employees or former employees of various transit agencies, nearly all of which run some form of rail transit.

Among the luminaries on the list is the former chief operating officer of VTA, the nation’s worst-managed transit agency. As noted here just a few days ago, VTA has the worst performing light rail in the nation. Other potential experts include an employee of the Jacksonville transit system, which operates a “skyway” or monorail system that manages to carry 0.93 people per car (or 1.86 people per two-car train).

In short, the panel is stacked in favor of rail transit.


The best bus system in America may be in Honolulu.
Flickr photo by duluoz cats.

The sad thing is that Honolulu already has some the highest transit usage in the nation. In 2005 it carried 8.7 percent of commuters to work, more than Portland, San Diego, Denver, or any other urban area that has recently built light-rail transit. It also carries far more trips per capita than any light-rail region. Somehow I doubt that spending billions on an expensive-to-operate rail line is going to help, and it certainly isn’t going to do anything about congestion.

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©2007 Coalition On Sustainable Transportation