1. "Ka Huaka'i 'Imi 'Ike." To See is to Learn.

This is the first article in the "Ka Huaka'i 'Imi 'Ike" ("Journey to See and Learn") series.

 LOS ANGELES – “Ka huaka‘i ‘imi ‘ike” is a Hawaiian phrase meaning “A journey to see and learn.” That phrase is the inspiration for this three week trip I am taking because it is easy to forget that before Europeans brought their languages to Hawai‘i, the Hawaiian people had no way to conveniently transmit information over a distance. As a result, the only way ancient Hawaiians could be sure of what was happening somewhere else was to have someone go there and see it. All learning had to come from either talking to someone or going to see it in person.Westlake-McArthur Park Station, Los Angeles. Photo by Robert Schwandl.

Something similar is happening with the rapid transit issue in Honolulu. Since many Honolulu residents have never lived in a transit-oriented city, they don’t know know the many benefits of relying of transit, bicycles, walking, and other alternatives can actually make their lives easier. Even many supporters of the HART project don’t fully understand the program they are supporting.

Over the next three weeks, I will travel to seven cities in the United States and Canada to photograph, video record, measure, and describe rapid transit, light rail, bus rapid transit, transit-oriented developments, bicycle facilities, “living streets” and other innovative alternatives to reliance on automobiles. I also plan to bring you interviews with public officials and community leaders in these cities who have helped create these changes in their cities and states. I am sure you will discover that we can learn a lot from the experiences of people on the mainland.

My first stop is Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States. Synonymous not long ago with “car culture,” Los Angeles and Orange County have developed a remarkably extensive network of rapid transit, light rail transit, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit to serve the second most densely populated city in the U.S. Which is the most densely populated city in the United States? Honolulu, Hawai'i.

As I finish this on Tuesday, August 14, I am in the beachfront town of Santa Monica. I reached this place yesterday afternoon by riding the Santa Monica “Rapid” route 3 which connects Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina Del Ray with Los Angeles international airport in about 45 minutes.  I will write more about Santa Monica, but today I am leaving soon for the Wilshire Boulevard and Western neighborhood, the end of the Purple subway line and the offices of the Bus Riders Union, a local organization organizing poor people in L.A. to demand transit services that better serves their needs.In fact, Los Angeles is like Honolulu in that both cities are hemmed in my mountains and ocean (and in the case of L.A., inhospitable desert). Once the people of L.A. filled in the finite land available for development, the city could only grow upward and inward, i.e., toward greater density. To maintain mobility for its residents--after spending billions on a maze of freeways and wide arterial streets--the cities of the Los Angeles basin have built a growing set of rail transit lines as a high-capacity backbone for a large bus rapid transit system. Most of this BRT system is comprised of ordinary buses that skip most intermediate stops; the Orange Line in the San Fernando valley is an at-grade BRT using an old railroad right-of-way, and the Silver Line to El Monte and San Pedro runs along freeways, serving both buses and carpoolers.

Please follow my travels by checking this website, on Twitter @AlohaRapidTrans, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AlohaRapidTransit.  In addition, share your comments and questions below, and I will do my best to answer them. 

Ke Aloha Na Rapid Transit!