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Sunday, January 27, 2013
'Complete Streets': Will Kakaako Become Another Waikiki?
By Mary Smart @ 2:53 AM :: 6860 Views :: Development, Rail

by Mary Smart

Governor Abercrombie, in his State of the State speech, directed the Hawai'i Community Development Authority to develop guidelines to implement the ‘Complete Streets’ concept. Last year, Honolulu City Council passed Bill 26-2012 a ‘Complete Streets’ ordinance.

What they didn’t mention is that the ‘Complete Streets’ concept will impede the public’s desire to move as quickly and conveniently as possible from point A to point B. The objective of ‘Complete Streets’ is to slow traffic—they call it "traffic calming"--and make a commute in a private vehicle more difficult. Smart Growth America explains: "The power of the term ‘Complete Streets’ is that it fundamentally redefines what a street is intended to do…."

‘Complete’ won't make driving your car or parking it easier.  The ‘Complete Streets’ documentation indicates that resolving congestion is not a priority of ‘Complete Streets’. The ’Complete Streets’ concept is "..working to change the paradigm from ‘moving cars quickly’ to ‘providing safe mobility for all modes’”—as if these were mutually exclusive goals.  The false dichotomy means dedicated transit lanes and wide medians come at the expense of space for cars. Auto commutes will be made more cumbersome to promote public transportation and bike riding.

According to the American Planning Association (APA), Complete Streets Quick Notes design consideration has as its first entry, "Narrow traffic lanes result in slower travel speeds that translate into safer, more accessible, and more pleasant thoroughfares for all users." The U. S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration call this a "road diet," intentionally reducing the number of lanes for automobile traffic. An objective noted in the APA quick notes appears to be putting people on a diet as well: "A 2002 report of the National Conference of State Legislators noted that the most effective policy for encouraging bicycling and working is complete streets."

Note, the desired outcomes are not those of the residents, but of the complete street planners. The January 23, 2013 Honolulu Star Advertiser front page reports, "Hawaii Auto Sales Rise 20.9%, The Highest Margin On Record." Many people enjoy living in low density residential areas in cul de sac communities because road traffic is minimal which makes it safe for young children. Complete Streets require interconnected streets. Mililani Town, a 1986 All-American City winner, is a planned community with many cul de sac neighborhoods that are highly desired by home buyers but would not meet the criteria proposed by complete street designers.  Ironically, the minimal traffic provided by culs de sac is a proclaimed goal of ‘Complete Streets.’  What ‘Complete Streets’ planners seek to achieve by force, Mililani has achieved without attempting to lower the standard of living of the middle class.   

According to the Pedestrian and Transit-Friendly Design: A primer for Smart Growth, by Reid Ewing, Research Director of the Surface Transportation Policy Project, an essential feature of pedestrian and transit friendly design is medium to high density living. To support bus transit the rule of thumb was at least seven units per acre. "For premium bus service, the required residential density rises to 15 units per acre. For rail service, it is even higher." 

Another facet of Smart Growth is Transit Oriented Development (TOD). The August 2012 Ala Monana Neighborhood Transit-oriented Development Plan, Existing Conditions Report and the December 12, 2012 final report, Leveraging State Agency Involvement in Transit-Oriented Development to Strengthen Hawaii's Economy, that calls for redevelopment of City and County redevelopment of parking lots. The reports address reducing parking requirements and "incentives to developers to foster multi-modal access and allow for lower parking rations or other accommodations that de-emphasize automobile access." This is a multi-million dollar bonus to developers who will be able to build many more condo or apartment units due to reduced area dedicated to parking structures.  To add insult to injury, the documents suggest imposing additional taxes on residents.

The result will be similar to the parking conditions of high rise units in Waikiki. Residents may also remember Mayor Jeremy Harris' Waikiki tree planting/beautification project. The first thing Mayor Mufi Hannemann did after taking office was spend tax dollars removing the trees under the pretext of them being a hazard to safety. ‘Complete Streets’ includes planting strips, raised medians, improved streetscapes, all of which will have to be maintained at some expense. Will complete streets be another worthless boondoggle project that irritates residents, costs a lot and have to be "corrected" by future politicians at taxpayer expense?

Will Kakaako become another Waikiki?

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