It's called FAST, for Flexible Affordable Smart Transportation, and mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano said Thursday it will be one-fifth the cost of rail.
“Unlike rail, this system serves many more areas,” said Cayetano, a former two-term Democratic governor, who has vowed to kill the city’s $5.3 billion rail project.
A large part of Cayetano's $1.1 billion transportation plan relies on a bus rapid transit system connecting central and Leeward Oahu to the University of Hawaii, Hawaii Pacific University and Honolulu Community College.
BRT buses would use the existing morning zipper lane, as well as an evening zipper lane, which the state expects to begin building next spring. Cayetano said 36 new express buses would arrive every 15 minutes, while also making use of highway shoulder lanes and dedicated bus lanes on King, Hotel and Alakea Streets, as well as Vineyard Boulevard.
“Unlike heavy rail, which will take ten or more years to complete, Honolulu commuters will see traffic congestion reduced by our FAST program within six months”, said Cayetano.
The former governor’s plan also relies on the synchronization of street lights, and added capacity on King Street and Dillingham Boulevard through contra-flows. There's also a 2-mile reversible elevated flyover on Nimitz Highway from the H1 airport viaduct to Iwilei. Panos Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii civil engineer and member of Cayetano’s so-called Truth Squad, said the initiatives would result in 55 percent more vehicle capacity.
Finally, Cayetano’s FAST plan would construct three short under passes along Kapiolani Boulevard at Date and McCully streets, as well as Kalakaua Avenue. There would also be an effort to institute telework programs, staggered hours and flex time work schedules.
Cayetano said his plan would benefit everyone on Oahu who uses the roads, whether in a car, delivery truck or a bus. FAST is expected to reduce the average 29 commute time from Kapolei to Honolulu from to 25 minutes
However, Kirk Caldwell, the former managing director and pro-rail candidate who faces Cayetano in the general election, lambasted the FAST plan as a ploy aimed at tricking voters.
“We need real traffic solutions here, not half-baked schemes, and I think what we have today is a half-baked scheme sprung on the public about a month before the election,” said Caldwell.
Caldwell added that “cheaper is not better” and the BRT segment of Cayetano’s plan would take away automobile lanes while making matters worse.
Cayetano said he would pay for his plan with the help of federal funding, and the half percent general excise tax surcharge on Oahu that’s scheduled to sunset at the end of 2022.
Cayetano mentioned a new FTA program called MAP-21, which awards New Starts and Small Starts grants to states that expand or create new BRT programs. Cayetano said he would negotiate with fellow Democrat, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, and state lawmakers to amend the law that allowed the half-percent surcharge to be used for rail. He said negotiations could include dedicating some of the funds to the state.
“The state has need for additional revenues,” said Cayetano. “They cut some programs that just hurt people."