A student design challenge for Honolulu rail

A few weeks ago, the University of Hawai‘i announced the winners of the “Make the Ala Wai Awesome” Student Design Challenge. The challenge generated ideas for improving the Ala Wai Canal in Honolulu, and engaged students in coming up with real-world solutions. Components of the project included flood mitigation, ecosystem restoration and preservation, community engagement, cultural connections, public private partnerships, and improvement of the visitor experience.

I love the idea of student design challenges. It is a bold and practical way to get students involved in the community, show them that they can make a difference, and to help them share their ideas for the future. It could also turn them into more involved citizens and voters.

I think we need a student design challenge for Honolulu Rail. With rail transit costs increasing, lawmakers unable to keep funding upwardly-revised budget estimates, voters burdened with high taxes and a high cost of living, the only ones who haven’t voiced an opinion are the students who will one day ride and pay for rail.

A “Make or Remake Honolulu Rail” Student Design Challenge would give students a choice: to build rail or stop rail contraction.

If students choose to build rail, they would need to come up with a plan to pay for it, including operations, maintenance, and repairs. Would students suggest raising taxes, adding tolls, or finding sponsors?

If students choose to stop rail construction, they would need to come up with a plan to re-purpose the existing columns and guide ways, use the land that has been purchased or condemned for rail, and Would students suggest building skyway bike paths, breezeway parks, or tiny homes?

Here’s what my 10-year old son had to say: “I think that we should finish rail. I believe this because rail is over 50% completed. If we would stop it and destroy it, the government would spend just as much money and time to stop it. If we complete it, we might be able to regain the amount of money we spent to construct it. We could also reduce the amount of fossil fuels used and greenhouse gasses.

How does he think we could pay for it? “We would pay for it by raising funds from other rail supporter organizations. Maybe the government and HART can make a deal with the citizens. I think that [we could do this] by raising the visitor taxes by 5%. 1% would go to an agreement of what the citizens want to be fixed. The 4% goes to the government and 3% of the 4% would go to help encourage organizations to be willing to help and support rail.  The extra 1% would be going toward to finishing rail.”

If the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), Hawaii lawmakers, and the City and County of Honolulu are struggling to keep rail going, do you think that students might help find more answers? After all, today’s students and their children will be paying for rail in the future.


Photo from Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Photo Gallery http://www.honolulutransit.org/connect/photos-videos. Clipart from http://all-free-download.com.

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2 Comments on “A student design challenge for Honolulu rail”

  1. Natalie Iwasa Says:

    ” . . . because rail is over 50% completed . . . ” But rail isn’t > 50% complete. Overall project progress is a little more than 1/3.

    • Hi Natalie, my 10-year old son believes that rail is further along than it really is. I didn’t ask him where he got his information, though I should have. Earlier this year, his classmates did a project on rail, and they also concluded that rail should be completed. Thanks for reading Better Hawaii! aloha, Rachelle

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