In their Oct. 4 debate on PBS Hawaii, mayoral rivals Kirk Caldwell and Ben Cayetano avowed their love for the city, and agreed that the roads should be repaved and the water/ sewer systems fixed. But mostly, they locked horns over the city’s elevated rail project.

Former Gov. Cayetano had recently released his “FAST” plan, which relies on traffic flow maximization and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system using electric express buses–“Imagine a giant Prius driving down a dedicated lane…it’ll beat the train every time.” Challenged over the height clearance for road underpasses by Caldwell, who said he drives a truck, Cayetano replied, “Had you read the plan you would have known the tunnels are only for cars. If there’s a red light, a truck has to stop.”

Asked why the city had been building rail pillars on land it didn’t own, Caldwell replied, “They started in West Oahu because they needed 40 contiguous acres for a maintenance facility.” Cayetano rejoindered, “That wasn’t the question. The land is owned by D.R. Horton, the developer that reneged on affordable housing.”

This was a tactic, Caldwell said. “If they’re not able to develop [Hoopili], then the price we have to pay is lower. We’re waiting for the outcome of those lawsuits.” Caldwell smiled, although he is a declared supporter of the Hoopili development.

Regarding “FAST,” Caldwell said that “one train can hold four busloads.”

Cayetano countered, “You need to get people on the rail car.” Among existing rail systems, “none have met the ridership forecasts…,” he said.

Boylan remarked the city’s calculation that the $5.1 billion rail project would increase transit ridership from 6 to 7 percent. Cayetano said that this would reduce congestion by 1.7 percent, while “Kirk said 30 percent the other night.”

Asked where he got the 30 percent figure, Caldwell replied, “From the FEIS [final environmental impact statement].”

Boylan interjected, “[Wayne] Yoshioka [DOT director] said in the FEIS that traffic congestion will be worse in 2030 with rail.”

Caldwell: “There will be less congestion.”

Asked by Boylan, “Do you disavow the actions by PRP [Pacific Resources Partnership, which has spent upwards of $1.2 million on campaign ads attacking Cayetano],” Caldwell replied, “If I instruct them to stop, that’s coordination.”

As to fixing the sewers, Caldwell was upbeat. “We’ve got a $1.5 billion consent decree.” Cayetano had the last word. “I don’t know why he’s so happy about the consent decree. It’s like the defendant in a personal injury case boasting about the settlement he has to pay the plaintiff.”

At the outset of the hour, Cayetano, with hooded eyes, had looked a bit slumped and subdued in contrast to the bright-eyed, smiling Caldwell. But as he warmed up and his eyes began to flash, it appeared that Cayetano’s earlier affect may have been a veteran campaigner’s ruse to throw his younger opponent off guard.

The previous week, Sen. Inouye released a statement declaring, “Governor Cayetano’s bus rapid transit plan would force Honolulu to the back of the line [for federal funds], adding years upon years of continued traffic gridlock…”

Cayetano commented in an email, “If the taxpayers of Oahu elect me it I am sure Senator Inouye will accept it as a mandate against the proposed rail project, respect their decision and use his considerable influence in Congress to help get federal funding for our BRT project.

“I disagree with Senator Inouye that we should build a $5.27 billion rail to avoid losing the ‘precious $1.55 billion’. We should build rail only if it [will be] cost effective and will provide relief from traffic congestion. It will not.”