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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shelve transit politics keep 'Ewa route

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Few decisions will have as great an impact on O'ahu on our residents, our businesses and our quality of life than the City Council's vote Friday on transit and its alignment.

That makes it imperative that the council put politics aside and make a sound decision based on what's best for the community as a whole and what makes the best and prudent use of precious taxpayer funds. Anything short of that is irresponsible.

Thus far, the signs are not encouraging. City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and others on the panel have injected their own suggestions for new routes. Kobayashi's suggestion, which took the form of a last-minute amendment, would reroute the transit line away from the 'Ewa plain.

Time for a reality check.

Kobayashi and the council would do well to pay attention to the $10 million transit study, which examined routes, ridership and other feasibility markers before determining the best option for O'ahu's residents.

Transit experts picked the "Green" route the 'Ewa route eliminated by the council as the one that best addresses current traffic issues and the future growth patterns of the island. It's ideal for transit-oriented development and for long-term ridership growth.

Logic aside, Kobayashi pulled the Green route, which goes from Kapolei to Saratoga Avenue, then to North-South Road to Farrington Highway.

Instead, she inserted a route that bypasses 'Ewa. Kobayashi said her route is more direct, and that an additional spur to 'Ewa can be built later.

Changing the route at this point with no study makes no sense. And by not including 'Ewa one of the studied routes the council risks losing federal funding.

Any transit route should include key points and the stretch from Kapolei to the 'Ewa area is key. It must also hit the airport and connect in some fashion to Waikiki and UH-Manoa. As the city noted, an approach that uses shuttles along with the bus and ferry systems is also crucial.

Councilman Todd Apo has offered an amendment that gives the council more time to study both routes and allows the city administration to make the ultimate choice.

What's really needed is an amendment that puts us back on track with the preferred route identified as the best choice. That's the Green line.

The council must resist the temptation to put its stamp on this project at every step. The stakes are far too high to let politics and ego get in the way.