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Letters 06/08

What our readers have to say

Mass Transit Rail

Leave Rail to the Experts

Rail opponents keep missing the point on rail transit. Rail is about growth management, not reducing traffic. One rail opponent asked why should we do it if it is not going to reduce traffic? Here is why:   

In Hawaii, we have to ask ourselves, How will we grow? On Oahu 3,500 to 4,000 new households are created each year. That means we will need to built 100,000 new homes over the next 25 years. Where will they live? “No growth” is not an option. We have an affordable housing crisis because we are not producing enough homes to meet the demand.

Shall we continue to build homes over our agricultural lands? We can build out (urban sprawl) or up (higher density in the urban core). I applaud our elected officials who have supported rail transit for choosing to protect our open spaces while keeping housing prices under control. Rail transit is a key infrastructure component that will allow us to build “up”. HOT lanes encourage urban sprawl. Tampa is a perfect example of urban sprawl and what we don’t need more of in Hawaii. Furthermore, if rail transit is planned with housing in mind, the city and state can trade land use and zoning entitlements in exchange for affordable housing along the route.

If we don’t plan for high density growth, the new housing supply will decrease and island-wide prices will increase. More and more middle-class people will be forced to get government subsidized housing or leave the island or be homeless. It costs about $300,000 to subsidize one affordable rental unit. Multiply that by the 10,000 units the state says we are short. That’s three billion dollars of taxpayer subsidy and no solution to affordable housing or urban sprawl.

I have yet to hear one anti-rail person intelligently argue against rail when the discussion is framed around “growth” versus “traffic”. Maybe the anti-rail folks don’t care about protecting our open lands. Maybe they already own their homes and have forgotten what it is like to be a renter or first-time homebuyer. Too often those people are young teachers, fire fighters and police officers.

Maybe if everyone who votes goes to school to become experts in rail technology and urban planning, then I agree that we should allow the public to vote on these critical issues. Otherwise, leave it to the experts.

Craig Y. Watase
President, Mark Development Inc.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Via email



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