U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa used her freshman essay in Politico to praise Washington’s Metro system and compare it to the $5.5 billion O‘ahu rail project, which yesterday received the green light from the Federal Transit Administration to begin construction — possibly as soon as March.
Anyone who argues against the virtues of public rail should come to D.C. and experience a well-planned mass transit system. It makes my commute to Capitol Hill easy — as I reflect on the thousands of Oahu drivers stuck in daily gridlock. Honolulu has its own rail project planned, and we are about to break ground in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration. It is a system sorely needed — and long overdue.
After riding the Washington Metro for eight years, I totally agree with her assessment of its merit. But it’s an apples and oranges comparison; the D.C. Metro is a far different system from what is proposed for Honolulu.
The Metro serves nearly all of the major suburbs in the district, Maryland and Virginia and delivers you to within a couple of blocks of anywhere you might work in the city’s business and government districts. The subway is also convenient for most trips around the city during the work day.
When I lived in Arlington, VA, for instance, I caught a city bus across the street from my townhouse that took me to the Pentagon in 10 minutes via an HOV lane. From there, it was a 10 minute Metro ride that dropped me a block from my office near the White House. Day trips to the Capitol were a snap. I wouldn’t have thought of driving.
But after our family moved out near Dulles Airport and my office moved further from the subway line, it became a different story. I had to either take the bus on a circuitous ride to the nearest Metro station or drive there and look for parking. Either way, it could take a half hour if traffic was bad. The train ride to the city took another half hour.
When my company offered parking in our building for $80 a month, I was back in the car in a flash.
The 20-mile O‘ahu line from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center will be more like my second experience for most commuters, who won’t live within walking distance of a train station and will have to either take the bus, drive or catch a ride to the train.
Once they arrive in town, if they work in Waikiki, at UH or somewhere else outside the downtown-Ala Moana corridor, they’ll have to find transportation from the train station to their final destination, making for a total of three separate car, bus or train rides that will take well over an hour. The system won’t be nearly as convenient as the D.C. Metro for day trips around the city.
It remains to be seen how many commuters will find this to be less of a hassle-factor than simply braving the traffic and driving.