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HART website slowly picks up speed as rail plan proceeds

By Gene Park

LAST UPDATED: 2:04 a.m. HST, Jul 8, 2011

Most folks know that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation debuted last week. But the new entity debuted an overhauled website to little fanfare.

The original wasn't ugly. It was just plain, caffeine free and vanilla. It wasn't always immediately updated with the latest information, especially since the old server was based in Denver.

It didn't look like the website of a multibillion-dollar project. It looked like a blog — clean but not as authoritative as it should be.

So the new, with a local server, quietly went live last week with a renewed focus on engaging residents, said Jeanne Mariani-Belding, chief public information officer for the rail transit project.

"The whole focus was to begin pulling in more voices from the community," she says. "It's still very much a work in progress."

So far the only part of the site with community voices is the part that's aptly titled "Community Voices," a two-minute YouTube video of residents talking about their hopes for the project and their frustrations about traffic.

The site will have social media integration in the future and will also announce "tweetups," where Twitter users meet up for an expressed purpose.

The best thing about the old site was that it had a full downloadable document library. It had environmental impact statements, financial plans — the kind of heavy reading you could do while riding a train, I suppose.

All that has been carried over. Many of the documents answer many questions I get. Most people wouldn't want to dig through it all, but if you're so inclined, there's a lot there.

Another important feature to keep an eye on is the "Traffic Updates" tab, updated with lane closings on Oahu.

The rail route map on the home page will eventually be interactive, featuring details and videos of the 21 planned train stations.

The site isn't the only source of online information on rail. Other than the obvious news sites, there are two blogs from opposite sides of the issue.

Cliff Slater, a leader in the anti-rail movement, hosts The site has been updated lately with clarifications on the federal lawsuit he, former Gov. Ben Cayetano and others have filed against the project.

The other is, run by Doug Carlson, a communications consultant for the project. Carlson often responds to news articles about the project, and posts rail-related stories from around the nation.

Bookmark them all if you haven't already. We'll all be reading about rail for a long time.


Gene Park can be reached at or on Twitter as @GenePark.

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