With six weeks until Election Day and the biggest issue in the Honolulu mayoral race is taking a bit more shape through online forums.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who opposes the Honolulu rail project, has been revealing more details of his much-talked-about “bus rapid transit” in Facebook posts on Civil Beat‘s website. Cayetano is a regular participant in the discussion forum, engaging his opponents and explaining why he thinks BRT is a better choice for Honolulu than the proposed heavy rail project his opponent, Kirk Caldwell, supports.

Caldwell does not post comments to the forum.

Cayetano was in Los Angeles this week to review that city’s state-of-the-art traffic light synchronization system that helps buses catch more green lights. He said he would unveil his transportation plan soon after his return at a series of public campaign events.

The former governor provided some specifics on his proposed BRT system in June after mounting public pressure. At the time, he said people interested in learning more details could read a 2003 environmental study that Honolulu commissioned when the city was pursuing the project.

Based on his public statements and the environmental study, this is what the BRT proposal looked like earlier this summer:

  • The BRT system would likely need to be elevated at some points, require some new parking on Beretania and King streets, and a bus-on-shoulder system would be used in addition to zipper lanes.

  • The bus system would need better traffic synchronization, more express buses and dedicated lanes.

  • Within the first year he would increase the number of express and direct-route buses, but didn’t say which ones.

  • He said he would “significantly increase” the number of point-to-point routes, including UH-Manoa campus and Waikiki.

  • The estimated cost to operate and maintain the BRT system was $151 million, in 2002 dollars, according to the FEIS.

  • The BRT plan called for 32 miles of improvements and 31 planned stops. It was estimated to serve 46,000 passengers daily.

Neither Cayetano nor anyone from his campaign would talk about his plan for this story. But the posts on Civil Beat are clarifying a plan that would involve:

  • Dedicated lanes on King and Beretania and creating another lane by eliminating on-street parking on one side of the street.

  • The short-term phase includes express buses from Kapolei, Nanakuli, Waianae, Mililani, picking up passengers at transit points in the community and getting on the freeway.

  • A new transit station near the H-1 and H-2 merge.

  • No stops on the zipper lane directly to designated sites at UH, Waikiki, Ala Moana or in the downtown area.

  • State plans to implement a PM zipper lane so develop a plan to use it for afternoon outbound express buses returning to their destinations of origin.

  • Street improvements like smoothing out a “jutting curb” on North King Street to create a new lane and making the curb lines consistent.

  • Build a flyover above the freeway at the Middle Street/Nimitz Highway merge.

In the posts, Cayetano reiterates why he backs BRT, including what he sees as significantly less cost, flexibility and serving more areas. But he also provides insight into how he arrived at his position.

In particular, he talked about the challenge in the downtown area in deciding whether to use a dedicated lane on Kapiolani Boulevard or finding an alternate route.

“We are considering using dedicated lanes on King and Beretania. Although our critics are correct that the 2003 (Federal Environmental Impact Statement) rejected King and Beretania, we reviewed the criticism and found it was based on two factors: a dedicated lane on each street would take a lane from automobile traffic and the two streets, unlike Kapiolani Blvd, provided little potential for land development,” Cayetano wrote.

“We dismissed the land development argument because we believe that the street’s main objective was for transportation purposes not land development. Besides, land development is driven by the market not by rail or BRT. We concluded we could create another lane by eliminating on street parking on one side of the street.”

He also discussed what kind of improvements would be needed to make King Street an express lane.

“Take a drive on King or Beretania and you will often see clusters of three or four parking stalls fronting small shops which when used by a car block an entire lane,” Cayetano wrote. “The small shops would be better served by building a multistory, city parking lot off the main street.”

For the long-term phase, he also offered this on how he planned to pay for the elevated section:

“It’s a state project so I will propose to the governor that the city will share 1/2 the cost of building the flyover which will give the BRT a dedicated lane to Iwilei where the BRT bus returns to grade level,” he wrote.

Cayetano plans to unveil his overall transportation plan in 10 community forums over seven weeks. Times and dates for those have not yet been released by the campaign.

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