It has cost much more than expected, its completion date keeps getting pushed back, and there is not enough money to pay for it.
What’s more, most people think building a rail line for Honolulu was either a “bad idea” (37 percent) or a “good idea” yet “troubling” due to the poor execution of the project (44 percent).
Only 14 percent of Oahu voters surveyed completely embrace rail and believe it is “progressing well.”
And yet, a clear majority (61 percent) say they want the rail line built all the way from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.
The question put to 832 registered voters on Oahu explained that the Federal Transit Administration insists that the full 20 miles of the rail route be built, or else Honolulu could risk losing $1.5 billion in federal funding for the project.
The question also explained that Honolulu will either have to raise additional money through tax increases or budget cuts to get the job done.
Only 29 percent said the rail line should be shortened.
“Look, people are anxious to finally see something tangible from it,” said Matt Fitch, executive director of Merriman River Group, which conducted the poll for Civil Beat. “They are not in love with it, but by an overwhelming margin — slightly more than 2-to-1, they say, ‘Yes, we need to complete it, we are not going to stop short.'”
So are the numbers of voters (50 percent) who say rail should be paid for through an additional extension of the surcharge on Oahu’s general excise tax.
Far fewer support increasing property taxes (7 percent) or combining GET and property tax revenue (20 percent).
And more than one-fifth of voters are unsure how to pay for rail.
Djou Versus Caldwell
Civil Beat conducted a random survey on Oahu from Oct. 10 to Oct. 13. The margin of error for the full sample is 3.4 percentage points.
Voters reached by cellphone comprised 32 percent of those surveyed, while voters with landlines totaled 68 percent.
Support for rail runs high across several groups surveyed, said Fitch.
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“It’s not really gender- or age-dependent, and whites and Americans of Japanese ancestry have positions very similar here, it seems,” he said.
But there are some measurements that stand out when it comes to rail.
While Charles Djou, who is trying to unseat Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, is not an “anti-rail” candidate, he is attracting anti-rail voters.
“He is their vessel, their vehicle,” said Fitch.
The 14 percent who think the project has gone swimmingly all along, meanwhile, are voting for the mayor’s re-election.
Fitch added that people who may be the least likely to take the train once it’s built — voters making over $100,000 a year — actually support the project.
On another question, a significant majority (68 percent) of Oahu voters say they’d like to see the 10 percent “skim” taken by the state on Oahu’s GET surcharge go to pay for rail rather than go into the state budget.
The Legislature has been reluctant to give up the administrative fee, which is expected about $500 million by the time the current GET surcharge expires in 2027.
Caldwell and Djou have both said the skim should go to the city.
Coming Friday: Where do voters stand on charter amendments addressing the Honolulu Police Commission, authority for rail operations, term limits for city officials, money for the Honolulu Zoo and a city office for climate change?
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