Rail station comes to life with 3-D model

Published  6:15 AM HST Jun 19, 2013
Rail Model for West L
Waipahu, Hawaii -

Rail planners on Tuesday offered a first look at what new elevated rail stations would be like by unveiling a 3-diminsional model of the West Loch transit stop located near Leoku Street in Waipahu.

"It's right sized, it's compact (and) it reflects a sense of place," Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said about the design, which features a white canopy resembling the sails of a Polynesian sailing canoe.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation scaled back the size of all 21 stations along the elevated rail line after public criticism that platforms were too large and imposing.

After hearing from Waipahu residents and businesses in three public forums, the end result was a West Loch station that better fit the surrounding area. However, officials at HART are still eager for input and have scheduled two additional community meetings.

On June 25, a meeting is scheduled at Waipahu Intermediate starting at 6:30 p.m. to discuss design plans for the West Loch, Waipahu and Leeward Community College stations. Another meeting July 30 at Kapolei Hale, also at 6:30 p.m., will ask for input on the East Kapolei and UH West Oahu stations.

"Station designs obviously are one of the more fun parts of the project, so this is a good time to get engaged," said HART chairwoman Carrie Okinaga. "Everywhere along the line there's a different sense to the community, so everybody along the alignment please participate," she urged.

HART executive director Dan Grabauskas told reporters that by designing rail stations smaller with some of the same modular features, for example light fixtures and stairways, the project has saved about $100 million. He cautioned to naysayers however that stations would not be bland slabs of concrete.

"Modular components doesn't mean it can't be unique," said Grabauskas. "Every human face has two ears, two eyes, a nose and a mouth, and yet they're an infinite number of ways that they come together."

Among the more notable differences in the layout of the 21 rail stations is parking, or the lack thereof. Only four of the stations, at East Kapolei, UH West Oahu, Pearl Highlands and Aloha Stadium, will feature park-and-rides with 4,100 stalls combined. But Grabauskas doesn't believe parking will be a major issue, even with ridership projected at 116,300 weekday trips by the year 2030.

"There's a nexus at each one of our stations with the bus (and) it's absolutely going to be integral to the station design, HART's top executive told KITV4."We'll also have…sort of a kiss and ride where folks can drop of a family member and then pick them up later in the day."

Although 'spillover parking' is not expected to impact areas where rail stations are located, the project must study the issue prior to opening a station and then six months afterwards.  Mitigation strategies mentioned in the project's environmental impact statement include "parking restrictions and development of shared-parking arrangements."

Caldwell said the city could also address parking concerns as part of transit oriented development that many predict will be built around the elevated rail stops.

"If (developers) can invite more people to come and park and shop at the different shopping centers, I think it's going to be a win-win for everyone," said the mayor.

The $5.3 billion project has always envisioned that the stations, which are 240-feet long, would be serviced by a two-car train configuration. But after a recent trip to observe rail lines in Europe, Grabauskas is examining whether a four-car configuration would better serve the public. Wait times would increase from three minutes to five minutes by going from 40 trains to just 20, however more people could board at once. Either way, the system would still feature 80 rail cars.

"So we think there are some real customer advantages and some savings to be had (by using a four-car configuration), but I want to make sure we do a full analysis and report back to the HART board with a recommendation," said Grabauskas.

The rail project has yet to resume construction after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled last August that an archeological inventory survey must be completed along the entire 20-mile route before ground is broken. Grabauskas said the State Historic Preservation Division is nearly finished with its review of the completed AIS report and he expects the document to be finalized in a matter of weeks, which would allow construction to resume.

"We've been able to get responses back on the airport section (of the project) based on comments we received from SHPD, and we think we're very close to having that completely accepted," said Grabauskas. "And then on the city center section, we're now working on the comments we received from SHPD on that 4,500 page document, and we will be getting that back to them very shortly."

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