A Rail Terminus Idea That Makes Sense!

It came out of the blue for me — as an op-ed in today’s Star-Advertiser. And not from the usual Stop Rail post-development-school practitioners.

This one’s from a standard architect, Nancy Peacock, and a landscape architect, Janet Gillmar. It proposes that we relocate the end-side terminus of the rail line just ewa of River Street, basically at the Iwilei-Aala Station and called the Downtown Gateway Station.

It makes sense, whereas all those Middle Street suggestions did not. Why would a rider get on rail for just a little more than the 21-mile halfway point and switch to a 10-minute bus ride downtown — that 10 minute figure only good with synchronized traffic lights that would stymy most mauka-makai road traffic to give the buses priority?

The Downtown Gateway Station would put inbound workers from Ewa within walking distance of downtown Honolulu, and a one-minute street-bus ride for those who don’t or can’t walk. It would be a quickie bus ride for those who really wanted to go all the way to Ala Moana Center, and the same for UH Manoa students and faculty.

It would save us from the very costly through-town portion of the elevated rail line and it would save us from the blight shown below as the elevated carrier splits downtown from our harbor.

Moreover, the Iwilei area has lots of available terminal space. More than what there would be in Chinatown. Here’s what the HART master plan says about those two areas:

  • Iwilei Station Area presents good opportunities for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) to occur on a large scale due to the large number of underutilized properties that would be candidates for redevelopment at some future time. However, the presence of homeless populations and perception of crime are critical development constraints. In addition, the electric power sub- station immediately adjacent to the station is in- congruous with pedestrian-oriented design, and its continued presence would limit the overall density, attractiveness, and accessibility of the station area.
  • Chinatown Station Area possibilities for TOD are limited. The area is almost entirely built out and there are few opportunities for redevelopment. Small parcels and many owners make larger-scale reuse and consolidation unlikely. In addition, special district regulations designed to preserve the area’s historic and cultural character restrict develop0ment density and height.

I think everyone has dreaded bringing the rail through to the federal building area via the harbor. Our harbor sure isn’t one of the beauty spots of the world but it has the future possibility of being close to that. The elevated rail line would pretty much rule out future remaking. I would truly separate mauna from makai.

So why not give the Peabody-Gillmar proposal a fair hearing? Yes, it would require a federal okay, but I can’t imagine an objection to something that saves money while providing basically the same transport service in the original Ala Moana Center line.

Look at the two maps below and give it some thought. Maybe there is a downside, but right now I don’t see one. Do you?

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

9 replies on “A Rail Terminus Idea That Makes Sense!”

  1. I don’t know Nancy, but Janet is a smart, common sense type person. Their suggestion is quite commendable. It is utterly stupid to destroy downtown, China Town , the view plain with this ugly, noisy rail that tax payers are stuck with.So who to contact? Since there appears to be so little leadership.

  2. Sounds great! Wiki bikes could replace most of the short bus rides from there. The biggest nay-sayer noise will come from those missing out on the big bucks they’re expecting from further down the line. I’d hope few others would object to eliminating thus most expensive section!

  3. I suspect that the owners of Ala Moana Shopping Center have made significant investments to Mr. Caldwell to secure his undying support. I don’t think they, or he would go along with this plan, but I do! My parents moved here in 1947 the year I was born. I’ve lived my entire life on Oahu and recently moved to the Big Isle to escape the train among other reasons. I think there are paralells with the now defunct elevated railway along San Francisco waterfront.

  4. I think it is the best solution of any so far advanced and think whatever is necessary for the community to get together and demand it.. A fairly large area for a major bus terminal would be needed, why not part of Aala Park?

  5. Perfect vision. When I was a kid we left town through a bus terminal at same spot to reach Ewa. It’s always made sense. One quickie transfer to Ala Moana. Dont sully the oceanfront of harbor area. YES!!!

  6. Good alternative to at least think about. Chinatown could use the revitalization monies. Just a thought, too, all the ASB employees might use this transit to their company hub! Being physically challenged, I would love to be dropped off near the heart of Chinatown—it used to be one of my haunts for food, quality grocery shopping & charming little stores. Now if only there were some museums! Fantasizing. Probably all the creative development around the rail stops is out the window now; no money.

  7. Back to the future? My great grandfather used to go down to the Oahu Railway station on the corner of Iwilei and King to ride out to Ewa for work. His “in town” transportation was horse and buggy but a bus would work too . . .

  8. I totally agree, At the very least, it is an idea that is worthy of serious discussion, especially now that the pandemic is messing with finances to pay for rail, and will likely have a lasting impact on ridership.

    Other factors to consider are the success of Biki bikes, the development of more bike routes in town, and the more widespread use of other personal transportation modes, notably electric scooters that could easily be carried on board. All of those make many destinations directly accessible from a downtown stop without the need to transfer to a bus.

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