Honolulu a Big Step Closer Towards a Mass Transit System

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- After a week of independent analysis, a panel of transportation experts makes its recommendation to Honolulu city officials Friday afternoon.

Four out of five analysts recommend a "steel wheel on steel rail" system, saying it's highly reliable and is the most widely used and available technology.

This section of Ala Moana could be the final stop for the proposed rail system.

But before that happens, it has to go through several more steps.

The panel's decision Friday helps the City Council move forward with a fixed rail plan.

This could be the future of Honolulu!

Frank Genadio certainly hopes so.

Friday morning, he listens to a group of international transportation experts talk about the best mass transit option for Oahu.

"They're looking to make sure they give the city a reliable system and the steel wheel on steel rail technology is proven," said Genadio, a Makakilo resident.

The only expert not on board is civil engineer Panos Prevedouros.

He says the $4 billion price tag is too much for Oahu taxpayers to shoulder.

He favors the "rubber tire on concrete" option.

"Basically it's much cheaper, about two and a half times cheaper, but more significantly with rubber tire has the flexibility to offer express service," said Prevedouros.

When the panel reconvened in the afternoon, chairperson Ronald Tober addressed Prevedouros' concerns.

"The initial cost is higher, but what you end up having is an operation that in the long term, the operating costs are lower," said Tober.

Councilmember Todd Apo says Friday's hearing was the last piece of the puzzle he needed to make an informed decision.

"I think what was most helpful for us is the discussion that went on today about what the reasons were, about what the pros and cons were of the different systems," Apo said.  "Because that's what we as a council need to take to ultimately make the decision at what technology we're going to use and move this project forward.

And leeward coast residents hope it moves forward, so they can move faster around the island.

"If they don't get a fixed rail transit system, they're going to be very unhappy and they might, as the demographics change, affect the political landscape in the city," said Genadio.

The City Council wants to act on this pretty quickly.

It hopes to move this to a public hearing in March, and make a final decision in April.