Transit Bill Dies After Council Hits Another Deadlock

Gary Okino
Gary Okino
Ann Kobayashi
Ann Kobayashi

Honolulu (KHNL) --  Honolulu's mass transit bill died Wednesday night, after City Council Members failed to decide what kind of technology the city should build.

Council Chair Barbara Marshall wasn't able to make it to the meeting. City staff says she was on her way to the meeting from the mainland but her flight was delayed.

Just like at the last meeting, without the full Council present, members deadlocked once again.

After taking a lashing from Mayor Mufi Hanneman and the public for failing to vote on a transit technology at last Wednesday's meeting, the Honolulu City Council attempted to wriggle out of a stalled vote.

"We need to move past our roadblocks and we need to somehow move forth so that the message goes out that we will have a mass transit system on Oahu," said Honolulu resident Claire Tamamoto.

But after round two of testimony and debate, the Council deadlocked yet again. The 4-4 tie killed the bill that would have determined whether Honolulu should go with rubber tire on concrete, magnetic levitation, or steel wheel on steel rail.

Some members say it's not normally the Council's right to make this kind of decision, that the council should have stuck with the independent panel's choice: steel on steel.

"I didn't think people could argue against what the expert panel found. How can you argue against four international experts that know this business inside and out?" said Council Member Gary Okino.

"I voted against the panel because to me they were experts on rail. if they had been all five experts on transportation and they looked around the world for a system that would fit our city I would've voted for it," said Council Member Ann Kobayashi.

If the council wants to retain its right to choose, members have less than 90 days to introduce another transit bill. Otherwise the decision-making power will go back to the Mayor.

Mayor Hanneman has said that if the Council fails to decide on a transit technology, he will move forward with steel on steel.

Bill 80 called for studying all three technologies: rubber tire on concrete, magnetic levitation, and steel wheel on steel rail.

The Council wanted to amend the bill to narrow down the choices to either just rubber tire, steel wheel, or rubber tire and magnetic levitation.

To amend the bill, the Council needed at least five members to say yes to a motion to reconsider the vote, but that motion failed when the council deadlocked 4-4.