Experts tout benefits of transit oriented development

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Still not convinced the rail project is good for Honolulu? A non-profit group is flying in a group of experts to try to win over critics. Transit oriented development will not only pump in money to the economy but it will also save lives. That's at least what some mainland experts who were flown here say and will tell people at a symposium here at the Blaisdell Center on Saturday. Saving lives might be overkill, but the city does want to make Honolulu more walkable. "We need to stop building cities as if everybody was 30 years old and athletic," said Gil Penalosa, 8-80 Cities Executive Director, an organization advocates for mobile communities for all. Penalosa is one of three experts flown in to talk about the possibilities. Hawaii is worst in the nation for pedestrian deaths of people 65 or older. He says it should be more mobile for everyone from 8 to 80 years old. "We have to make cities safe and enjoyable for everyone," said Penalosa. He also says transit, walking and biking would help save people money. If two car households get rid of a car it would save $8,000 a year. "The people of Hawaii are spending, the two car households are spending one out of four dollars of their income on mobility. Imagine what two car households could do if they downsize to one?" said Penalosa. "It's not only great for local families but the local economy. It's going to be good for the environment, for public health, for mobility, for creating a fantastic place." The Emerald City glasses are great, but do we really need to spend some $20,000 to fly in three experts to speak at a symposium and tell us how rosy things will be with transit oriented development, even if it's sponsored, not taxpayer money? "We want people to be able to come to this symposium, talk story with some of the local and mainland experts and really kick the tires and get a sense that this stuff works and we can try it here," said Harrison Rue, Honolulu Transit Oriented Development Administrator. Urban Land Institute paid for the stipend and travel expenses for the three experts. ULI is a nonprofit that "provides leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide." Private companies like Colliers International are already working on a dozen rail route properties big and small along the 20 mile rail route. "We're definitely seeing a lot of interest in it from owners and developers," said Gail Jennings, Colliers International which has a Transit Oriented Development Division. "The interesting thing about the synergy of the timing is the Mayor has his housing initiative going on as a different approach to dealing with the homeless, a more aggressive approach to affordable housing and tying this all in with TOD, it's going to work together well as long as everyone stays focused and the developers have that vision of what can happen. I think the future is very exciting." Perhaps the TOD talk isn't overkill after all. The Transit Oriented Development Symposium is Saturday November 22, 2014 at the Blaisdell Center from 8:30 am - 2:30 pm. Admission is free.

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