A year ago I published an article advocating a “Plan C” for HART. At the time, the City & County of Honolulu and HART were firmly entrenched in the idea that the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) could not be revised. They cited the potential loss of $744 million that is still owed to the City under the Grant Agreement. Last month Mayor Rick Blangiardi proposed a new, shorter route for HART. So in the spirit of revising the current plan, here are some thoughts for a new “Plan C.”

While returning from a trip abroad, I was seated on the plane’s left side as we descended into Honolulu, which offered views of the entire Ewa plain and developments sprouting around the “Second City of Kapolei.” I could see that the current terminus of the Rail resides, literally, in the middle of nowhere. Seeing it from that perspective, it became clear to me that HART is trying to extend the wrong end of this project. If the goal of a Multi-Modal Mass Transit System is to maximize the number of riders, why isn’t HART tapping into the largest source of riders on the Ewa Plain, namely the Second City.

This reminded me of felon Willie Sutton who was asked, “Willie, why do you rob banks?” He is said to have replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Here are my thoughts for an updated “Plan C+” for HART.

• Build a world-class terminus and transfer station at Lagoon Drive. This location is already recognized by the FTA and HART in the current Recovery Plan as “the most practical location to transfer to and efficiently route connecting rail-access services.”

• Service the Lagoon Drive Transfer Station with a fleet of Express Buses that serve Chinatown, Downtown, Kakaako, Ala Moana, Waikiki and UH Manoa.

• Extend the Western Terminus of the system into Kapolei even as far as the Ka Makana Alii Mall, where riders could be served by local buses, secured parking, kiss-and-ride and bicycle access.

This would have great effect on the number of potential riders which will help our bottom line when the City’s Department of Transportation Services (DTS) takes over the Rail and Bus at an estimated expense of $140 million per year. This is an expense that garners little attention but is a real part of the total expense of this Multi-Modal Mass Transit System. This subsidy will be paid by all of Honolulu’s taxpayers.

For a bank robber, it’s where the money is. For an engineer, it’s where the siphon dips into the water. For a Multi-Modal Mass Transit System, it’s where the riders are. Let’s see if we can find the best long-term solution for our Honolulu. This Plan C+ will preserve jobs. If curated properly, it will also save the FTA Grant.

If you agree with this, please call or email your Council Member and let them know. A small act by enough of you can and will make a difference. I was one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit to stop rail. Although that ended five years ago, it might make some people wonder if I have a bias against public transportation, or perhaps just rail. I do not.

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