Leveraging transit-oriented development for economic growth, better living in Hawaii

An artist’s rendering of a potential transit-oriented development in Waipahu, Hawaii. According to a new report from Smart Growth America and the state’s planning office, such developments could boost economic development and quality of life on the island.
Hawaii state agencies can leverage transit-oriented development to help deliver on many of Governor Abercrombie’s economic development, quality of life and environmental protection goals, according to a new analysis from the state’s Office of Planning and Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute.

The report’s recommendations come after a series of meetings between state government officials, private sector leaders and non-profit representatives. The group of more than 40 participants, convened by Governor Abercrombie, identified the importance of transit-oriented development to Hawaii.

“The people of Hawaii now have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage transit-oriented development throughout the islands, including but not limited to The Bus and rail transit on Oahu, but also the Hele-On Bus on the Big Island and the Maui Bus and Kauai Bus,” said Governor Abercrombie. “By planning ahead, we can use TOD as a positive tool to proactively direct growth away from agricultural and conservation lands and lay the groundwork necessary to encourage development where it is most needed and welcome for the next generation.”

Governor Abercrombie’s New Day Plan, announced in 2010, specifically addresses the state’s need to “increase transportation options and address transportation issues on all islands to improve the business climate and quality of life for our residents.” Moreover, the Governor seeks to support community design that fosters “alternative modes of transportation including walking, biking, and mass transit.”

“Transit-oriented development is a powerful tool that can help deliver many of the benefits envisioned both in Governor Abercrombie’s New Day Plan and the State Planning Act,” said Roger Millar, vice president of Smart Growth America. “The Governor recognizes that the state’s goals for economic development, job creation, transportation, quality of life and environmental protection are all connected.”

“Transit-oriented development is an opportunity for Hawaii not just to connect business and residential areas, but also to save its residents and taxpayers money,” Millar added. “Improving access to a variety of transportation options can have a big impact on household budgets, providing the means for households to reinvest back into the local economy.”

Although much of the State of Hawaii is relatively rural, the counties of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai all have population concentrations with development clustered in cities, towns, and resort areas. Honolulu, the state’s most populous city, recently surpassed Los Angeles to become the city with the worst traffic in the nation.

“State agencies can use proximity to transit to make the public’s access to state services more convenient and economical,” said Governor Abercrombie. “We can make getting to work easier and cheaper for our state employees. We can take advantage of the value transit adds to state property for the benefit of our citizens. This report provides a way forward.”

Click here to download a full copy of “Leveraging State Agency Involvement in Transit-Oriented Development to Strengthen Hawaii’s Economy.”

Technical assistance