Carlisle, Caldwell assail Cayetano's bus rapid transit plans

Published: Jun. 7, 2012 at 10:27 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 8, 2012 at 12:21 AM HST
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Ben Cayetano; Mayoral candidate
Ben Cayetano; Mayoral candidate
Peter Carlisle; Honolulu Mayor
Peter Carlisle; Honolulu Mayor

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) –  Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle Thursday blasted the bus rapid transit plan being pushed by his mayoral opponent, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, as an alternative to rail transit.

In a Honolulu Star-Advertiser op-ed over the weekend, Cayetano said a nine-year old city plan for dedicated bus lanes on Ala Moana and Kapiolani Boulevards came in for criticism for taking away lanes from regular traffic on those busy roadways.

So Cayetano said he wants to consider using exclusive lanes for buses along King and Beretania streets instead.

"The truth is, Cayetano rejected the very proposal he is now campaigning on for good reason," said Carlisle at a news conference at his campaign headquarters Thursday.  "Small businesses would be hurt, much-needed parking would be taken away and traffic congestion would be much, much worse."

Reading from a news release, Carlisle noted that an environmental study Cayetano approved as governor rejected bus rapid transit lanes on King and Beretania streets ten years ago because of concerns about the loss of on-street parking and the effects on businesses along the route.

But Cayetano said bus rapid transit could use on-street parking stalls during rush hour in the morning, before many businesses open and need the parking.

"It may take some lanes during the peak hours, but you got to make choices.  You want a 50-, 60-foot high rail system running across the waterfront and disrupting ancient burial sites and all of that?" Cayetano asked.

Standing in front of renderings of an elevated rail transit station downtown during a news conference at his Waialae Iki home, Cayetano responded to Carlisle's criticisms.

"What do you think this is gonna do to traffic?  When you build it, it's gonna close this street here and Bishop Street," Cayetano said, pointing at the large drawings of concrete structures.  "How about that for an impact on business?"

Mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell, the former acting mayor and one-time managing director under former Mayor Mufi Hannemann, also made fun of Cayetano's proposal.

"Ben thinks. Ben thinks," Caldwell said. "But thinking is not a plan.  How about at rush hour in the afternoon?  Are the stores going to close early at 3 o'clock when rush hour starts?"

After reading a statement during his news conference, Carlisle declined to detail how city buses would fit into his transit plan, directing reporters to read his op-ed in the newspaper.

"We need to do exactly what we're doing right now, period," Carlisle said.

But Carlisle refused to summarize his approach to city buses in the future.

Carlisle also said reporters should talk to Roger Morton, the head of Oahu Transit Services, the company that operates the city bus services.  OTS is a city contractor, working at the direction of the mayor and his transportation director, who set the policy and the overall plan for buses in the city.

Both Carlisle and Caldwell have criticized Cayetano for releasing few details about his alternate plans for rail since Cayetano entered the race for mayor in January.

All this debate about rail and buses comes just a little more than two months before the primary election, which is Aug. 11. If Caldwell, Cayetano or Carlisle gets 50-percent of the vote plus one vote on that day, he'll win the race for mayor outright.

If no one gets a simple majority, the top two vote-getters will face off on general election day in November.

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