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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cutting parking to push transit?

Advertiser Staff


The Honolulu City Council is scheduled to hear five transit-related bills today, starting at 10 a.m. at Honolulu Hale:

Bill 10 Establishes the process for creating transitoriented development zoning regulations around stations.

Bill 11 Reduces off-street parking requirements at multi-family dwellings within a quarter-mile of a transit route.

Bill 12 Reduces off-street parking requirements in business and mixed-use districts by 50 percent near transit stations.

Bill 13 Allows development of hotels in industrial districts near major mass-transit centers.

Bill 14 Requires the city to enter into project agreements with construction labor unions on the construction of the mass-transit system.

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Honolulu City Council members are looking to reduce off-street parking requirements as a way to increase ridership on a planned $3.7 billion mass-transit system.

The elevated commuter rail system from east Kapolei to Ala Moana Center would not be completed until 2017 under city plans. However, the city already is looking to put in place rules to govern development surrounding the 19 stations along the 20-mile route.

Overall, five mass-transit-related bills are on the council's agenda today including a bill to allow hotel development in industrial areas surrounding major mass-transit centers.

The idea is for rail stations to become hubs for housing, business and employment within so-called "walkable" communities. The lifeblood of these communities would be a mass-transit system capable of moving up to 9,000 passengers an hour in each direction.

Among the proposals being considered is changing land-use ordinances to create transit-oriented development districts around transit stations. That would essentially create special districts with specific community-tailored rules governing housing density, parking and pedestrian amenities, among other things.

The City Council also is considering reducing off-street parking requirements at multi-family dwellings and businesses near major transit stations. For example, Bill 11 would reduce the off-street parking requirement for 800-square-feet or bigger apartments from two spaces to one. Bill 12 would cut in half the current off-street parking requirements for businesses near stations.

At issue is whether the city should set transit-oriented development regulations such as parking requirements or leave such decisions to transit station communities.

Under current plans there will be park-and-ride lots at some, but not all 19 transit stops.

The city hopes that reducing requirements to provide parking near transit stops will increase the likelihood that residents and others will use mass transit.

"In other cities where they have (transit-oriented development) ... parking is less anyway because people just tend to not own cars," said Councilman Gary Okino.

Reduced parking requirements "maybe are meant to be an incentive (to encourage mass transit ridership), maybe they're meant to make things a little more affordable around transit stations by not requiring additional cost items like parking."

Measures to reduce parking requirements need to be coupled with ways to reduce auto ownership or provide private-sector parking solutions, said Councilman Todd Apo.

"That effort needs to be coupled with something else that is either going to provide a disincentive for people to have a second car or provide joint-use parking structures for the areas" near transit stations, Apo said. "If that's all you do (reduce parking requirements), what that's going to cause is all kinds of cars trying to find parking on the street."

Council member Charles Djou said the city should be encouraging, rather than discouraging, parking around transit stations.

"If you're limiting parking, one of the questions will be (for) all those people who live in Mililani and 'Ewa Beach will they actually fight to find parking after fighting all that traffic" getting to a transit station, he said. "Or will they just stay in their car and come into town."

Currently, Waipahu is the only community drafting a formal transit development plan, and that will be completed later this year. Communities must have a plan in place before receiving station construction funding.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann wants the transit system's first segment to start service between Kapolei and Waipahu in 2012.