I had the pleasure of being present at a historical moment the other day – February 22nd, 2011 to be exact. This marked the official groundbreaking of the Rail Transit System right here on Oahu, Hawaii. Now, before I go further into my day, let me just address the elephant in the room at this time. I KNOW there are critics. I KNOW there are proponents. I KNOW there are environmental and aesthetic concerns. I KNOW there are traffic concerns. I KNOW there are pros just as much as I know there are cons. The argument for whether or not we NEED rail in its current proposed state is NOT the point of my writing. So…put down the knives people…I’m just here to talk about my own PERSONAL opinion and the day as it unfolded.
Having spent half of my life the San Francisco Bay Area, I was always enamored with the concept of mass transit. Seeing thousands of commuters flow in and out of San Francisco via bus, carpool lanes, bicycles, ferries, electric-rail buses, streetcars, cable cars and yes, rail transit, always fascinated me. Moving people from one place to the next always seemed so seamless, and as I grew older, I began to appreciate having variety when it came to mass transit. Anytime I saw that you could safely and effectively get people from point A to point B WITHOUT adding to congestion made total sense to me. So, as you can imagine, I do happen to be on the PRO-RAIL side of the argument. I also just so happen to feel that rail is not the ONLY thing we need to be doing. However, to not do anything at all seems foolish to me. If we don’t get this thing going now, where the heck will we be in 20 years? More traffic, more costs and even more behind than ever before.
With that said, let’s move on to the day in question! We got started a little earlier than normal on a Tuesday, loading up our entire office and heading to the groundbreaking on the Ewa Plain. I saw it as a fieldtrip of sorts, and felt it would be a great event to be a part of. The ceremony took place along the newly constructed North-South road, and as we drove up, we could see the crowds slowly forming. As the parking near the site was reserved for media and dignitaries, we were shuttled in from an outside parking lot and quickly found ourselves in the middle of it all! Talk about seeing the “who’s who” of Hawaii movers and shakers! From Senators Inouye and Akaka, to Mayor Carlisle, to Lieutenant Governor Schatz, to all the major labor union heads and construction leaders, it was quite a sight to see.The ceremony itself was a typical one –- brief speeches and anecdotal stories of the rail system’s past, present and future, all with the occasional outburst of protests hailing from across the street by anti-rail groups. What really stood out to me was Senator Inouye’s speech – which told the tale of the long road to rail transit. Believe it or not, the seeds of rail transit were planted over 40 years ago by then-Mayor Neal Blaisdell. To hear the story of those humble beginnings, through all the ups and downs to push the system to approval was truly eye opening for me.By the time the speeches wrapped up, the entire crowd was ready to witness the ceremonial groundbreaking. Standing there in the warm Leeward sun, I couldn’t help but smile at the promise of what rail could represent for our island. Yes, I know there will be roadblocks ahead, and we still have a long way to go in this process. But, for the moment, as the soil was turned over, I had a glimpse of what the future looked like, and I for one couldn’t have been happier.“If you build it, they will come.” Let’s hope so. I for one will be in line for this one.Related Articles
- Rail Transit Project Breaks Ground In Kapolei (greenbydesignhawaii.wordpress.com)
- Muni objects to state criticism of rail lines (sfgate.com)
- Anti-rail attitudes stem from lack of information (tobiasbuckell.com)