POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 8, 2012
Mayor Peter Carlisle went on the offensive in the race for Honolulu mayor Thursday, criticizing opponent and former Gov. Ben Cayetano for embracing a segment of a Bus Rapid Transit plan Cayetano had dismissed 10 years ago when he was in office.
Former city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, meanwhile, said both Carlisle and Cayetano are too extreme in their positions and that he offers a middle ground in the heated mass transit debate.
Cayetano, the only one of the three opposed to the city's planned $5.27 billion steel-on-steel rail project from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, said in a Star-Advertiser editorial commentary Sunday that he supports a beefed-up version of the BRT plan once espoused by former Mayor Jeremy Harris. Cayetano said, however, he was concerned that the 2003 plan involved using dedicated lanes on Ala Moana and Kapiolani boulevards and that he would prefer looking at using King and Beretania streets instead.
Carlisle, in a news conference at his campaign headquarters Thursday, said Cayetano signed off on the 2003 BRT plan, which specifically ruled out using King and Beretania. "The truth is, Cayetano rejected the very proposal he is now campaigning on, and for good reason," the mayor said. "Small businesses would be hurt, much-needed parking would be taken away and traffic congestion would be much, much worse."
Cayetano, at his own news conference, said the major concern over the use of King and Beretania centered on parking concerns raised by merchants. "Different things" could be done to ease that worry, such as taking away parking lanes only during peak hours. "The thing about the bus is that it's flexible, it can go around things," he said.
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Carlisle, Caldwell assail Cayetano's BRT proposal
Caldwell said he agreed with Carlisle that Cayetano's suggestion of using King and Beretania is unwise. "Can you imagine what the businesses are going to say along there as they lose parking and as they lose access to their stores?" Caldwell also accused Cayetano of delaying his check-off on the BRT plan for months while he was governor while support for then-Mayor Harris' plan waned.
Cayetano said he is not opposed to the concept of a rail line running through Oahu, but he said he believes the current Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit project should be scrapped because it is too expensive and not analyzed fully. BRT would cost only a fraction of rail, he said.
Caldwell said he supports the rail project but believes Carlisle has failed as mayor to make changes in response to growing criticism against it. The city could eventually incorporate both rail and BRT, he said.
Carlisle said the city's traffic situation has reached "a tipping point" and that not moving forward with rail now could jeopardize $1.55 billion in Federal Transit Administration money that is expected to help pay the tab. As for Bus Rapid Transit, Carlisle said, "There are places where BRT could work. Honolulu is not one of those places."