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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 29, 2002

Transit future requires basic attitude changes

Pity the work of transportation planners. At best, all they can hope for is a mad effort to run in place.

They build new roads, offer transportation alternatives and constantly tinker with traffic systems. But as fast as they work, it seems the demand grows even faster.

That story was driven home by a new report from the O'ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is a federally mandated cross-government body that coordinates transportation planning for the island. The latest report is called "TOP 2025," and it lays out a fairly grim scenario.

As reported by Transportation Writer Mike Leidemann, even the "best case" scenario for the year 2025 envisions more clogged roads, more costly time stuck in traffic and more frustration.

The TOP 2025 report envisions a spectrum of ideas, ranging from the city's already planned Bus Rapid Transit System through road widening, a $300 million tunnel between Sand Island and Fort Armstrong and high-tech traffic-management systems.

The Bus Rapid Transit system, an alternative to a much more intensive and expensive fixed-rail transit system, would primarily use existing roadways in urban Honolulu. That means the price of an upgraded mass-transit system will be the loss of a considerable amount of roadway space now used by private cars.

Will enough people be willing to give up their private automobiles to make the bus transit system a viable reality? That's an open question.

Ultimately, Honolulu will have to come to the conclusion that has been reached in other heavily urbanized, land-locked major cities around the world, like Hong Kong, Singapore or New York.

Those are cities where the private automobile is no longer king.

In addition to "hard" improvements such as better and more appealing public transportation, Honolulu will have to look at approaches that modify behavior.

It also means changing our philosophy of insisting on abundant, inexpensive parking in urban developments, instead implementing "road pricing" techniques that force people to pay a hefty premium if they wish to drive during peak congestion.

For years, we have looked at traffic and transportation as primarily an "engineering" problem. But we cannot simply build our way out of future traffic congestion. Ultimately, we will have to rethink basic assumptions about our right to ride our private vehicles when and where we wish.