UH Professor Proposes Mass Transit Solution, But Others Cite Conflict of Interest

DOWNTOWN HONOLULU (KHNL) -- More debate over the best mass transit solution for Oahu. A University of Hawaii professor unveils a new study that claims to reduce traffic six times more than the "steel wheel on steel rail" option.

Panos Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii at Manoa's civil engineering professor, says it can be down with just a tenth of the cost. But others say it's too good to be true.

Prevedouros says a combination of a mass transit highway plus some underpasses through busy parts of the city will dramatically reduce traffic versus the steel on steel option. But critics say that's not true, and there's a conflict of interest.

The future of Honolulu depends on which mass transit system the city chooses.

Prevedouros pushes for HOT lanes, a multi-lane highway system for high capacity buses and other vehicles.

"If you want a real solution, the HOT lanes is your solution," he said. "One-thirds of the congestion goes away. It's as simple as that."

Prevedouros says a "steel on steel" option is a huge gamble, and the cost is ten times what he's proposing.

"A brand new rail system in the middle of the Pacific that's never been done before," he said. "The uncertainty bracket is huge."

But others completely disagree.

"In my estimation, my evaluation, 'steel on steel' is so far superior to anything else there is," said Honolulu City Councilmember Gary Okino, who has been in the planning business for more than 40 years.

He says Prevedouros' proposal could worsen Oahu's traffic problems.

"The worse thing you can do at the worse end of the scale, are buses, which is basically what they're promoting," said Okino.

And critics say there's a conflict of interest. Prevedouros is the president of the Hawaii Hiighway Users Alliance, which represents taxi drivers, car dealers, parking lot companies, cement and concrete companies, and other groups that make their living off of cars.

Still Prevedouros says, his proposal is the best option for Oahu.

"To build and operate a highway of any form, elevated, on the average on the nation is forty cents for the average trip, ten miles," he said. "It is 400 cents for a mass transit system."

Okino disagrees, saying "steel on steel" is the most efficient solution.

"The other thing is we need to move forward quickly," he said. "The longer we wait the more it's going to cost."

The Honolulu City Council hopes to decide on the mass transit technology soon so they can start budgeting for it next year.