Cheaper Alternative to Rail System Proposed

Honolulu City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi
Honolulu City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi

By Mari-Ela David

HONOLULU (KHNL) - There is a push to bring an advanced bus system on Oahu instead of a train. Those for the idea say it's much cheaper than a rail system.

A bus fixed guide-way system would run the same route as the proposed rail system - from Kapolei to University of Hawaii Manoa, with one of the pit-stops at Honolulu International Airport.

The difference is - no tracks.

It's a new technology, only five years old, already used in Europe, and several Hawaii community leaders are pushing to bring a similar system in place of a train.

"If two systems do the same thing but one is less expensive and one is more practical because you don't have to put track on the road, why would we go for the system that's more expensive?" asks Honolulu City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi.

The "tram on tires" has all-wheel steering, which allows it to glide sideways into a designated stop. There are no tracks which is what makes the bus fixed guide-way system cheaper to build.

"If there's an emergency, you can just take all the buses off and the emergency vehicles - fire engines, ambulances - can use that because there's no track," says Kobayashi.

Like the proposed rail system, the bus system would run on an elevated highway, an idea that has groups like the Honolulu League of Women Voters on board.

"With an elevated highway, we can get buses traveling at say 50 to 60 miles per hour," says Charles Carole, a Honolulu League of Women Voters member.

That's faster than a train, which city leaders say would run at 25 miles per hour. Whether this bus system would run well with a majority of the Honolulu City Council, remains to be seen. Kobayashi says Honolulu needs to find a system that fits the city and its pocketbook.

Supporters of the bus system say the vehicles are hybrids, so they say the project is environmentally-friendly.

The bus system could be built in two years.

No word yet on when the City Council will discuss and compare the system with the rail system.