LIHU’E – A proposed resolution by Kaua’i County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura to create an “integrated county transportation plan” to significantly ease traffic congestion on Kaua’i is moving forward.
At a meeting at the historic County Building Thursday, the council’s planning committee approved forwarding the resolution to the full council for vote next Thursday.
The proposal, for which Yukimura has generally garnered praise and support, calls for a coordinated effort by government, businesses and residents to help formulate solutions to long-standing, traffic gridlock faced daily by residents and visitors.
Whether the plan can be implemented successfully will depend on whether the council, Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s administration, the state Department of Transportation and the state Department of Education view it as a priority and work together on solutions, said Gary Heu, administrative assistant to Baptiste, in addressing the council committee.
The county already has its hands full dealing with a slew of issues, including the war on drugs, solid waste and upgrading parts of the county’s sewage system to be in compliance with federal requirements, Heu said.
But if interested parties agree the proposed plan is a top priority, the county will very likely throw its resources and manpower behind it, Heu said.
The Kaua’i County Planning Department and the Kaua’i County Public Works Department have expertise that could help with the development of the plan, Heu said.
Cost is another factor, Heu said. Baptiste’s assistant said he has met with Yukimura and talked with her about “what types of dollars… what types of resources, human and dollar resources,” Heu said.
She said it would take between $500,000 to $800,000 to develop a “truly integrated plan” and that U.S. House Rep. Ed Case endorses the plan conceptually.
A critic of the proposed resolution, Kapa’a resident Glenn Mickens, said those who are willing to forge ahead with the proposal should consider its potential cost.
“One would ask what the realistic cost of that system (is)” and how long would it take to develop such a system if the funds were found,” Mickens said.
Councilman Jay Furfaro said the issue of the resolution opens the way for an “honest visit to how we might identify some funds” and having the Baptiste administration get back to the council on that matter.
The proposed resolution triggered support from Daniel Hamada, DOE superintendent of schools on Kaua’i, Carol Bain of the Kauai League of Women Voters and others who urged the plan incorporate more use of bicycles and vehicles or uses that use hydrogen or a combination of gas and electricity.
Hamada said the plan should accommodate the needs of the schools of the future – those that operate in the mornings and “well into the evening.”
The concept of school days becoming longer is taking shape with the reform at Kaua’i’s three high schools, Hamada said.
Programs have been developed to allow students to gain job experience outside the classroom, and students must have use of vehicles to get to such classes, Hamada said.
Students also need their transportation needs addressed because they are taking additional courses or are involved in activities before and after school, Hamada said.
Students taking advanced classes at the Kaua’i Community College also need a way to get to the college and to get home, Hamada said.
Hamada said one solution may be for DOE to work with the county on the purchase of bus passes to allow students to get around the island on county buses.
Mickens complimented Yukimura for her effort in developing the resolution and pursuing the plan, but said it is not realistic.
Kaua’i residents are too tethered to their vehicles to consider taking the bus or riding bicycles, Mickens said.
But Yukimura said she was not convinced that people in Hawai’i don’t take the bus.
“You say that people won’t ride the bus. How do you explain the millions of people who ride the bus everyday in Honolulu?” Yukimura asked.
Mickens said, “They are forced to ride a bus in Honolulu,” adding that he would like to see a percentage of the people who ride the bus compared with those who drive.
Yukimura said she didn’t know the figure, but said that “if all those people in the buses were to drive cars, Honolulu would be a total gridlock.”
Yukimura has said that encouraging more people to ride the bus is just one part of her plan to help alleviate traffic woes on the island.
Mickens said projects that might come out of the proposed plan may interrupt DOT’s own traffic plans for Kaua’i.
Yukimura said she has been in contact with Steve Kyono, who heads the highways division office on Kaua’i with the DOT and contended her proposal, if implemented, would enhance the state plan
Ray Chuan, another critic of the resolution, said the transportation proposal is grandiose and that large cities in the mainland have implemented rapid transit systems but have not had much success.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit system in the San Francisco area was costly to build, but in over 20 years it has been in operation, it has taken only about 5 percent of the traffic off the roads, Chuan said.
Council chairman Kaipo Asing said a long-range transportation plan the DOT developed for Kaua’i from 1988 to 1997 already provides solutions for the island’s traffic problems, “so we don’t need to re-invent the wheel.” Asing said the 300-plus, page report was developed at a cost of $500,000 and addresses traffic concerns until 2020.
The state plan was developed with help from the county public works department and the county planning department.
“I kind of want the public to know we have something,” Asing said. “We are on the right track.”
Yukimura said she realizes the state plan exists, but noted that the new plan would augment efforts to solve a critical problem facing the island.
Heu said the Baptiste administration is already making headway: Studying putting bicycle racks on buses, allowing luggage on the buses and studying a shuttle system in Lihu’e.