Transit tax must come after planning
The Honolulu City Council and the Hannemann administration have come together on a reasonable and forward-looking plan that makes the goal of sensible transit alternatives for O'ahu more realistic than it has been in years.
The agreement states in strong terms that no tax money will be spent on mass transit until a specific plan that addresses financing, technology and route is in place. The promise has to have some wiggle room, obviously. It won't be possible to develop a fleshed-out transit plan without spending some money tax money, that is.
But the promise implies that a new half-percentage-point excise tax hike would not be imposed, or spent, until there is a specific proposal on the table to spend it on.
That's important. Best intentions often go awry. It would be too easy to impose the new tax and then spend the money on other projects. That temptation must be resisted.
It's important for the council to authorize the tax now so the federal government is convinced we are serious about building transit alternatives. But once authorized, the tax must go into the deep freeze and imposed only when a publicly acceptable, well-thought-out transit plan is in place.