Slater also contends the final environmental impact statement indicates that traffic congestion is expected to get worse with the project. The city says his claim is based on selective information.
In a poll question asking whether "the reduction in traffic will not be worth the cost of the project," 35 percent said they strongly agreed, with 18 percent somewhat in agreement. Twenty percent said they somewhat disagree, with another 20 percent in strong disagreement.
Asked whether "something needs to be done about traffic and rail is the best solution," a combined 50 percent agreed, compared with a combined 47 percent who disagreed.
Panos Prevedouros, a University of Hawaii engineering professor who has twice run failed mayoral campaigns opposing rail, called the results remarkable.
"They speak volumes of the public's desperation for relief from traffic congestion and, since this is the only project on the table, they barely are going for it," he said in an email message. "Most would tell you that they want rail so that the other people can use it.
"Well, any desirable project would have had over two-thirds of the public supporting it by now."
John White, executive director of the Pacific Resource Partnership, an organization that connects the Hawaii Carpenters Union with contractors, supports the project and said he understands the concern over cost.
But with fuel prices at all-time highs and the amount of time spent in traffic, he said he believes costs for consumers are already pushing the limit.
"It will cost too much if we don't build it," White said. "The reality is, without a viable alternative transportation system, more people will have to pay higher and higher gas prices than ever before, and more people will be spending time in traffic and cars when they should be spending time with their family.
"Rail transit gives us the opportunity to address these concerns and also some of the other benefits that come from that, which is the development that occurs around these stations."
Carlisle said he expects sentiment to shift in stronger favor of the project when real, tangible benefits are felt.
"I think once we have people who are employed and that reaches out into those people's extended families and communities, that to my mind is going to be a very big plus," he said. "Once they see how it's working to get the dollars that we're spending on our own people back to work and back to having the ability to pay for their families, pay for their homes, rent their apartments, then I think that people will be more satisfied because they will have concrete results of the expenditures of those funds that are beneficial to all of the members of the community here on Oahu."