Honolulu’s Mayor, Mufi Hanneman, has been pushing for light rail through the area for sometime. But recently attacks have intensified by an anti-rail group, whose website is appropriately named Stop Rail Now. What does Stop Rail Now want? Light Rail to get to the ballot.

Crazy, right?

Unlike many Mainland communities, Honolulu’s transit tax hike was never put to a ballot vote.

“Virtually every other city that has done a rail system since World War II has done a ballot question,” said council member Charles Djou, who opposes the project. “It is highly unusual that Honolulu is moving forward with this rail system without a vote.

“If we don’t put this issue on the ballot, this issue will never be resolved. This project will always be controversial.”

I do hope Honolulu builds the line, and I hope they get it to the airport. But that’s not why I’ve written this post. Here’s my question: are we better off or worse off that we have to vote on light rail?

Without a ballot measure, it would likely be impossible to get a light rail expansion through this year, because enough of the politicians in region are against it. But we likely could have got Prop. 1 through last year without a hitch. Still, there could always be a sense of illegitimacy about light rail that was not voted on. So what do you think?

14 Replies to “Honolulu Light Rail”

  1. “Still, there could always be a sense of illegitimacy about light rail that was not voted on.”

    Like there is about our sports stadiums, which were actually voted AGAINST but which we seem to like regardless. Any “BLAH BLAH WE DIDN’T VOTE FOR THIS WHY IS THIS BEING FOISTED UPON US” would go away once the line opens.

    I kind of hope it gets built without a vote to serve as an inspiration for other cities but I’d also like to see the people of Honolulu be turned on to transit before it gets built.

  2. I agree with Morgan, people might complain about the legitimacy befire the line is built, but once it opens and gets riders, no one will remember.

  3. Personally, I think that we elect government officials to decide what’s in our best interest based on findings from experts, research in the field, etc. We are a representative democracy, after-all. If voters were to decide on every major issue, how our region would be designed would be open to manipulation and politicizing in the same way that Prop. 1 was. Of course, Prop. 1 had its major flaws but who’s to say that’s not because it had to be voted on?

    This extends to other issues, too. I’d be very happy if all we voted on were elected officials and not referendums, school bonds, tax increases, park levies, etc, etc. I understand why it’s done though: it’s politically easier to have people tax themselves than to do the taxing from above.

    1. Yes yes yes!

      That’s the beauty of something like a federated board. These people already represent the interests of the locals – big companies aren’t buying local officials (and certainly not 15 of them at a time).

  4. Houston proves that you can still win at the ballot box after the line opens– so even if it gets trounced again, people will still clamor for it and vote when it does come up again.

    ST2 was definitely the proper kind of vote, but due to long build time on the first line, it was a little early.

  5. Houston voted November before the line opened. I’m glad they did because then it would have been subject to the moronic opponents claiming that the crashes were bad(even though they were car drivers faults) The problem with voting on everything is that it turns into a self interest thing instead of the good of the community. This is why we have NIMBYs etc. Me me me. I agree with John, we vote for people to do what’s best for the whole. If we don’t like it, throw the bum out. I’m sure some of the best things ever done would probably have been voted against at the time or not seen as worth while.

  6. What John said. We pay people that we’ve voted for to understand issues in much better depth than we’re able to in our free time. Spend some time in California in voting season to see where sending every decision to the people can go terribly awry (flashy TV ads usually make or break a vote).

    This being said, general yes/no votes for whether we should have transit, etc., aren’t a terrible idea. It’s when we have to decide the details that we get into trouble.

    1. The flashy ads usually only affect the state-wide issues in California. The more local issues don’t have the same problems.

      1. But they do have the problem of too much insider knowlege asked of the voter. I can give a dozen examples of Seattle-level votes that I’ve seen where I know there is much more going on in politics than my free-time research was able to penetrate. For instance, remember Charter Ammendments 6 – 16 a few years ago? I’m sure everyone made intellegent and informed decisions on those gems.

      2. I don’t remember those, probably I was living in california at the time.

        But in general I think I agree. Asking the voter to learn all the subtleties (did I spell that right?) seems unreasonable.

  7. I’d prefer if we didn’t have to vote on light rail, that way things could get done quickly and efficiently. It seems that everytime we have a “public” vote, our region is gridlocked for another decade, and light rail extensions will never be built.

    I look at a place like Vancouver, where their Skytrain extensions were automatically approved by the Translink board and the Provincial government. Most of the improvements in the recent plan will be completed by 2020. Now, when will it be when we see that kind of extensive coverage that Vancouver will have by 2020?

    I honestly wish we had something like that…

  8. If you want to get an idea of just how backwards our legislature is (Ed Murray included, still, apparently) take a look at the move towards regional transportation governance “reform.”

    Judy Clibborn, Deb Eddy, Fred Jarrett (+other KemperCrats) – these esteemed leaders are willing to set up an entirely new elected government to subsume Sound Transit.

    Why, you ask? Well, the purpose is not to expand light rail. It’s to subvert the regional consensus behind rail on behalf of a local Repub billionaire named John Stanton. A guy who pushes buses, but penly states he never takes the bus.

    More importantly, our enlightened legislators are totally willing to re-make regional transportatioon governance in order to pass the lightening rod of system-wide tolling on to another elected body. Doug MacDonald and Deb Eddy say as much in public settings…but they do their best to beat around the rhetorical bushes when discussing this matter.

    Hey, they saw the Elway poll which shows 70% of the public hates congestion pricing. Tell Joe Voter he gets a chip on his car, and I’ll bet you could get that number up to 90%

    In Oregon, their legislature doles out hundreds of millions of dollars each year to expand light rail in the greater Portland area.

    In Washington State, we have a bunch of (fake) Democratic legislators who try to find a new way each year to divert the light rail revenue stream to more freeways.

    And they do it on behalf of a millionaire mall owner who hosted Karl Rove in his office, and a billionaire (big hat, no cattle) who is the #1 donor to the State Republican Party.

    Ever wonder why we are so far behind here?

    But hey, all these clowns need to do is pass bills which say “we shall reduce VMT”…in 30 years. Without explaining how that’s gonna happen. Or, how their big freeways and diesel buses are going to do the trick.

    The eastside Democrats are especially pathetic and two-faced. At least Jim Horn told you straight up he wanted to pave the planet for Kemper and Stanton. The batch of backwards Republicrats we got now have mastered the art of tailoring their message, depending on which group they might be in front of.

    I’ll tell you what: some day it’s gonna catch up to them. And it’s gonna catch up to Frank “pave the city” Chopp, too. (back in the day it was hard to track down evidence of politicians’ backwards and regressive thinking…not any more!)

    Time for these old dinosaurs to hang up the towel.

  9. Btw, I am all about exposing the dirty history of light rail opponents in Honolulu.

    They pulled the equivalent of Seattle’s foaming anti-lrt monorail activists: they went out and bought themselves some “faster and quicker to deploy” BRT buses, at a cost of $800k each. (check that figure)

    And they took the Kemper, Niles, Bundy, Washington Policy Center and Discovery Institute model (meaning very little new rights of way or infrastructure).

    And guess what the result was? Empty buses stuck in traffic. The conservative anti-transit dream. Proof that socialist social engineering will always fail (while doing their best to hide the fact that BRT scam was actually their idea)

    Best part came when the buses started catching on fire, and the whole program was scrapped. The perfect ending to a perfect BRT story.

    How is it that John Niles, Jim MacIsaac, Richard Harkness, Doug MacDonald, Mike Ennis, Emory Bundy (should I stop now?) Kemper Freeman, Jim Vesely, John Carlson, Mark Baerwaldt, Maggi Fimia, Bruce Chapman (…no) Ted Van Dyk, Joel Connelly, Peter Sherwin, Rob McKenna, Frank Blethen, Don Padelford, Dori Monson, Bill Eager, Will Knedlik, Bruce Agnew (I could keep going, but won’t) all share one thing in common: these clowns claim BRT should be the homogenous, singular mode of transit for our remote po-dunk outpost here in Seattle.

    But none of them will EVER actually put a BRT plan out for examination. Not even the insane people trying to steer the HMS Ron Simms away from that inevitable iceberg.

    So, what does it tell you when hardcore Bus Rapid Transit ideologues won’t even set their product out on the shelf?

    Doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it?

  10. Good God! Has Honolulu gone mad! SkyTrain is an obsolete proprietary light-metro system that has a very poor track record. Costing up to ten times more to build than LRT, SkyTrain has failed to provide a modal shift from car to transit.

    80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first use a bus to get to the metro and the percentage of people using public transit has stagnated at 11% for almost two decades!

    SkyTrain’s operating costs are about double of that of Calgary’s LRT system and Calgary’s C-Train carries more people!

    Gerald Fox, a noted US transit experts claims that no SkyTrain has ever passed public scrutiny in the USA and all SkyTrain’s built to date were all private deals with minimal public input.

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