The Hawaii State Legislature should not try and add more tax dollars to the rail project this year because they do not have complete and trusted information about the project. They should take a “timeout” and demand that the City and HART come back to them in November with answers to the following questions below.

What is the total amount that each Oahu taxpayer has paid for the rail GET surcharge for the first 10 years?

This figure has not been discussed. Most taxpayers do not understand how a GET increases the cost of everything we purchase, and we have 11 more years to go.  Before anyone adds more years of taxation, let’s find out how much this tax actually costs each one of us on Oahu.

The Tax Foundation of Hawaii has calculated this cost and published the result on their website, which is $200 per person per year. For my wife and I, this number is equal to raising our property taxes by 15 percent annually. It is not good governance nor is it fair to create and extend a tax if you do not know how much it actually costs each taxpayer.

HART rail guideway car photo op Farrington Hwy. 30 may 2017

What is the “Reality of Rail”?

After 10 years, we are still waiting to hear the plan for rail daily operations.  HART has rail ridership estimates that are almost 10 years old and has never shared these estimates with the public.  This ridership plan calls for over 35,000 bus riders per day to be forced to transfer to rail because their existing bus routes will become rail feeder buses and end at the nearest rail station.  This plan is risky and needs public input.

What happens when rail breaks down?  How do riders get safely back to a platform?  How do thousands of transit riders get to work or home from work when rail breaks down? Will ridership decline after the first crime on rail? The rail cars have no drivers and the 40 station platforms have no security personnel.  How loud will rail be? Will 24 trains per hour starting at 4 a.m. be a problem for those that live nearby?

There is no money in the $2.4 billion city operating budget to operate and maintain rail.

The rail financials tell us rail will cost over $100 million per year to operate. These financials expect the city to apply the farebox recovery plan and raise bus fares to cover about 30 percent of this cost and then the city will have to subsidize the remainder through property tax increases. How can we discuss more construction taxes for rail when the City and HART refuse to discuss the annual $100 million dollar deficit for annual rail operations?

What really happens if rail stops at Middle Street and has only 13 stations and 13 TOD zoned neighborhoods? What will that mean for transit and housing?

The recent statement by HART that stopping rail at Middle Street will reduce ridership by 60 percent is pure public relations and cannot be supported.  Finally, is the light rail option, Dual Power rail cars with its 19 stations and 19 TOD zoned neighborhoods, feasible?

The City and HART have proven that they cannot be trusted because of their rail testimony two years ago and what they said this year. At the same time, they mislead us by omission — they are not transparent regarding the issues mentioned above. Decision makers need answers to basic questions about rail before they decide on what to do next.

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