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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Honolulu Rail Transit: International Lessons from Barcelona in Linking Urban Form, Design, and Transportation

  • Author(s): Boeing, Geoff
  • et al.

The city of Honolulu, Hawaii is currently planning and developing a new rail transit system. While Honolulu has supportive density and topography for rail transit, questions remain about its ability to effectively integrate urban design and accessibility across the system. Every transit trip begins and ends with a walking trip from origins and to destinations: transportation planning must account for pedestrian safety, comfort, and access. Ildefons Cerdà’s 19th century utopian plan for Barcelona’s Eixample district produced a renowned, livable urban form. The Eixample, with its well-integrated rail transit, serves as a model of urban design, land use, transportation planning, and pedestrian-scaled streets working in synergy to produce accessibility. This study discusses the urban form of Honolulu and the history and planning of its new rail transit system. Then it reviews the history of Cerdà’s plan for the Eixample and discusses its urban form and performance today. Finally it draws several lessons from Barcelona’s urban design, accessibility, and rail transit planning and critically discusses their applicability to policy and design in Honolulu. This discussion is situated within wider debates around livable cities and social justice as it contributes several form and design lessons to the livability and accessibility literature while identifying potential concerns with privatization and displacement.

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