Group Looks to Sideline Rail Plan

Dan Douglass
Dan Douglass
Ann Kobayashi
Ann Kobayashi

DOWNTOWN HONOLULU (KHNL)  --  Oahu's mass transit plan is speeding ahead, but one group wants to bring it to a complete stop.   Will it get enough support?

Eight thousand signatures so far, and at least 22,000 more to go.   That's the latest Thursday night from anti-rail protestors.

They launched a petition drive a month ago, that would give voters the power to say "yes" or "no" to a "steel on steel" rail system on Oahu in the November elections.

"Stop Rail Now" is taking their campaign to another level.  The group just opened an office here on South Street in Downtown Honolulu to use as its headquarters.  Members admit they still have a lot of work to do, but they say 8,000 signatures in one month is a sign they're building momentum.

Time is ticking.

"We're strategizing here looking for areas which we can target to get the most signatures that we can," said Dan Douglass, a "Stop Rail Now" volunteer.

"Stop Rail Now" has only two months to collect 22,000 signatures, but members remain optimistic, saying support for their cause is evident here at their new headquarters.  Their lease is paid entirely through donations, their operations handled by hundreds of volunteers.

"Eric is the guy who's really managing the office and a lot of the day to day logistics," said Dennis Callan, "Stop Rail Now's" co-chair.

If successful, voters will see a proposed city ordinance on the November ballot, banning trains or rail transit in Honolulu.

"It's too important for politicians or newspaper editors to make the decision for us," said Callan. "We want the public to decide so this will enable and facilitate that public decision."

The Honolulu City Council has nearly exhausted its power to choose, after hitting a stalemate over steel on steel technology versus alternatives such as magnetic levitation or rubber tire on concrete.

"I felt that we should pass something, whatever we feel is right, pass it out and see what happens but I don't think that's going to happen," said Honolulu City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi.

Even if it did, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanneman has said he would veto any vote against steel on steel, which means any hope of steering away from rail may rest on "Stop Rail Now's" petition drive.

If "Stop Rail Now's" ordinance becomes law, city leaders say it would override any decision the city council or mayor makes on the rail project.