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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Town hall meeting to discuss impact of rail on economy

By Alan Yonan Jr.
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The transit-oriented development plan for East Kapolei calls for a multi-use trail below an elevated rail line.

Artist's rendering City and County of Honolulu

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Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is urging the public to attend a town hall meeting tonight at Farrington High School where officials will brief the public on efforts to promote economic development along the city's proposed rail line.

The event, set for 6 p.m. in the high school's auditorium, also will include a panel of community-oriented developers and planning experts from around the country who will talk about their experiences in developing housing and retail centers along rail corridors in other cities.

The panelists also are scheduled to meet privately with local bankers, developers, landowners and community organizations during a two-day symposium today and tomorrow.

"We're looking for community-based input," Hannemann said at a news conference yesterday to promote the town hall meeting.

"We want the public to help us define what they want to see in transit-oriented development. This is a chance for the public to be educated from A-to-Z in transit-oriented development," he said.

Transit-oriented developments are high-density mixtures of residential and commercial uses located along transit routes that are supposed to encourage walking or transit riding rather than driving. Proponents say they have the potential to revitalize those areas, increase property values and improve quality of life.

Hannemann cited Arlington, Va., in suburban Washington, D.C., as an example of successful transit-oriented development, where mixed-use development is concentrated within one-quarter to one-half mile from the Rosslyn, Court House and Clarendon Washington Metro stations.

The city has said it expects the $5.3 billion Honolulu rail project and its projected 97,000 average weekday riders to spur billions of dollars of investment as 21 stations from East Kapolei to Ala Moana become hubs for housing, business and employment.

That in turn could lift land values along the route, although so far that has not happened. Hannemann attributed the lack of investor interest so far to the history of uncertainty about the project, along with the slow economy.

Among the experts flown in for the symposium and town hall meeting was Bruce Allen, senior development manager for the Portland Development Commission. Portland's ground-level, 44-mile MAX light rail system is often cited as exemplifying the congestion reduction, reduced driving and mixed-use development that rail-transit advocates forecast.

Allen said Portland has been able to successfully mix affordable housing into the areas of development around train stations.

"We've found that a good tool for this is tax abatement for the developers. It allows them to help keep rents low for 10 years," he said.

Charles Buttner, who works with a nonprofit community development center in San Diego, said a single transit-oriented development project has the potential to create 2,000 to 3,000 jobs and result in the construction of 800 to 1,000 new homes.