Monday, August 13, 2012

Yes2Rail Ends Its 4-Year Run with This Observation: With Pro-Rail Candidates Having Won the Primary Election, 55-to-45 Percent, the Project's Public Involvement Team Obviously Has Been Doing Its Educational Job, Plus: Now’s the Time to Reform Public Opinion Polling Methodology on Rail and Demand More from the News Media

November 6, 2012 Update: Pro-rail Kirk Caldwell defeated anti-railer Ben Cayetano in today's mayoral election, 53.9 to 46.1 percent. The result mirrors the August primary election's pro-rail outcome, as summarized in the headline above and in the post below. (We probably shouldn't say "told you so," but in fact, we did.) And if you're really curious about what we said about Mr. Cayetano's transportation ideas, visit our aggregation site and scroll down to the 2012 Mayoral Race and Rail section.

Barring unexpected developments that could reverse this decision, today’s post is Yes2Rail’s last – number 804 in the series that began on June 30, 2008. So we sign off with a few closing comments as we prepare to concentrate our energies on All Things California.

Some people in Honolulu would have you believe the rail project is like a boxer who’s barely surviving the 10th round of a 12-round championship fight. He’s ahead on all the scorecards, but still they work hard to convince the public that a knockout punch is likely even this late in the fight – despite all the evidence.

The Honolulu Elevated Rail Project is farther down the track than any other proposal to create a traffic-free commuting alternative in Our Honolulu’s congestion-choked southern corridor. The project's Full Funding Grant Agreement application is in Washington and is likely to be approved in the next few months, something the late Frank F. Fasi, who was elected Honolulu's mayor six times, never came close to achieving despite multiple attempts to build rail.  His final plan died in the City Council 20 years ago this Fall.

So how did rail succeed this time around? Oh, I dunno…..maybe because it benefited from an excellent public information campaign! That’s one conclusion someone could make (we just did), since rail has been consistently supported by Oahu residents several years running, including only two days ago.

In 2008, the pro-rail candidates won and anti-railers lost. A scientific poll released four years ago this month found 58 percent of those surveyed supporting rail, while only 38 percent said they were opposed. Remember the City Charter amendment that year directing the City’s transportation division to pursue a steel-on-steel system? It passed.

One year later, a poll reported 60 percent support for the project among those who were scientifically surveyed – 34 percent strongly supportive and 26 percent somewhat supportive. Of the 37 percent who said they were opposed, 21 percent were strongly against the project, and 16 percent were somewhat opposed.

In 2010, pro-rail candidates won, anti-rail candidates lost. Voters overwhelmingly approved a City Charter amendment to create the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, thereby creating an entity to build and operate Honolulu rail.

A few months later in May 2011, another scientific survey found support for rail at 57 percent, with 40 percent opposed. That poll was publicized in the same month the Gang of Four – Cliff Slater, Ben Cayetano, Randy Roth and Walter Heen – filed a federal lawsuit to kill the rail project.

One year ago next Sunday, the Gang launched its massive public relations campaign against rail with a 1500-word commentary in the newspaper. Online Civil Beat fact-checked the piece and found numerous false statements. Civil Beat judged only two to be  TRUE , two  FALSE  and three  HALF-TRUE/HALF-FALSE .

The Gang’s PR campaign has been barreling along virtually nonstop since last August and hit its peak with the launch of former Governor Cayetano’s campaign for mayor in January, with near-constant media coverage of his anti-rail rhetoric. Yes2Rail concluded he really didn't understand rail very well. He's essentially a one-issue candidate, as the media continually remind us.

So How's Rail Doing Now?          
In spite of all this negativity about the rail, the project is doing just fine, thank you very much, and the evidence of rail’s continuing support among the public is only two days old.

Saturday’s Primary Election supplied that evidence.
Pro-Rail Candidates:  54.6 percent
Anti-Rail Candidate:   44.7 percent

After all of the criticism, all the negativity, all the accusations and misrepresentations in the anti-rail camp’s massive multi-media PR campaign (see our “aggregation site” and the Mr. Cliff Slater and Friends heading), the opponents have failed to move the needle! The rail project’s support among Oahu voters two days ago was a solid majority!

Candidates have come and gone, some won and some lost, but consistent throughout the years has been the rail project's public involvement campaign that week after week, month after month supplied residents with truthful information that helped them understand and appreciate the project.

But as they say, no good deed goes unpunished, and the rail project’s public involvement team was "whacked" this summer, to use Civil Beat's word. Those of us whose involvement with rail ends this month leave knowing the mission was accomplished.

What About the Polls?
The public opinion surveys published by the Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now and Civil Beat in recent weeks deserve a second look. The newspaper/TV poll published on July 29 called it almost exactly right for Mr. Cayetano – 44 percent support in the Primary. The survey underestimated Mr. Caldwell’s support by nearly 5 percentage points and overestimated Mr. Carlisle’s backing by 2 points.

Civil Beat’s most recent survey (its story was updated only last Wednesday) had Mr. Cayetano at 51 percent, thereby badly missing the election’s outcome. That poll was conducted among “very likely Oahu voters” only, a methodology CB has used repeatedly in 2012 that Yes2Rail believes is seriously flawed. UH professor Neal Milner said we had a point.

Governments do not differentiate between voters and non-voters in their planning processes. With non-voters having lower incomes and less education than voters, they’re more likely to rely on public transit than citizens who vote. Opinion surveys on rail that ignore the non-voters’ views can’t possibly reflect the community’s true support and appreciation of the rail project.

Whatever the reasons for Civil Beat’s big miss in its most recent survey, getting rid of voter-only polling can only help.

And Finally....
Yes2Rail has criticized the Honolulu news media over the past several months for their hands-off approach to covering Governor Cayetano’s bus rapid transit alternative to elevated Honolulu rail. After weeks of Yes2Rail posts calling on Mr. Cayetano to release details of his “plan,” the Star-Advertiser finally pressed the point in a late-May editorial.

However, in the end, we’re not so sure the media’s poor performance really mattered. The August 2012 Primary Election's results showed that rail continues to receive majority support among Oahu residents.

Despite the media's laid-back reporting and the opponents’ anti-rail rhetoric, residents managed to sort and sift through the information available to them from multiple sources, including the rail project itself, and gave the pro-rail candidates more votes than the would-be rail killer.

That's a good note for rail's public involvement team to leave on.

AUGUST 16th UPDATE: Letter to Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
Headline missed real vote winner
Shouldn't this have been the banner headline in Sunday's Star-Advertiser: "Pro-rail candidates win primary, 55 to 44 percent"?
Jerome M. Comcowich
Kailua   

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Civil Beat Follows Yes2Rail’s Lead, Fact-Checks Cayetano Radio Spot and Finds It Only ‘Half True’ – but the Analysis Gets Just as Bogged Down in Statistics as the Candidate’s Anti-Rail Campaign and Misses 4 Big Points

It took Civil Beat two weeks to do what Yes2Rail did on July 26th when we concluded a Ben Cayetano radio spot is “flat-out wrong” in suggesting drivers won’t benefit once Honolulu’s rail system is in operation.

Civil Beat’s analysis seems to be precisely correct in finding fault with the spot based on various tables and data within them in rail’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. Well and good, but can we please get our noses out of the FEIS and step back to appreciate the bigger picture?

Here’s are four points we think Civil Beat missed in an analysis that must warm the hearts of every stat fanatic and accountant:

Point One
Does anybody really believe Ben Cayetano is driving this bus? In finding the Cayetano radio spot only  HALF TRUE , Civil Beat merely confirms what we’ve been harping on here at Yes2Rail for years:

Cliff Slater deliberately uses misinformation and obfuscation to confuse the public into believing rail would be a failure if congestion continues to grow long after rail is built. And now he has Mr. Cayetano doing it, too.

Rail’s “failure” to prevent congestion from growing as the population grows is Mr. Slater’s top talking point, and you hear it in Mr. Cayetano’s statements, too – slipped to the candidate behind closed doors by anti-railer-in-chief.

The anti-rail mayoral candidate is leaning so heavily on Cliff Slater for his campaign’s theme that it may as well be Mr. Slater who’s running for mayor so he can kill rail transit now and forever on Oahu.

We provided links two days ago in Yes2Rail's post to several earlier posts about Mr. Slater’s obfuscation campaign. You’re invited to click on them, read them and then reflect on whether the current campaign against rail is what citizens have a right to expect from their leaders.

Point Two
Can we settle for anything less than the whole truth from people who want to run this city? We’ve made this point before, too, and our summary of Civil Beat’s Fact Checks on the Gang of Four’s August 2011 commentary is worth a repeat visit.

Of the seven issues Civil Beat checked, it found only two that were  TRUE  , two that were completely  FALSE  , and three that were  HALF TRUE , which means they also were  HALF FALSE  .

That’s a terrible record for a quartet made up of three attorneys – including a former governor, a current law school professor and a former judge – and Mr. Slater. By relying on a self-proclaimed 'transit expert' for their material, the three lawyers are willing passengers on Mr. Slater’s bus – The Obfuscation Express.

Point Three
The radio spot avoids any reference to the benefit rail will provide for the people who need it most – west Oahu residents who travel to and from town through the east-west urban corridor. It lumps all drivers into the same category – people from East Honolulu, the Windward Side, the North Shore, everywhere – and suggests rail will be a failure if they don’t plan to ride the train.

Rail isn’t being built for everyone! Oahu’s #1 congestion problem is precisely where the rail line will serve communities and residents in that corridor. The radio spot’s intellectual dishonesty is undoubtedly obvious to my fifth-grade granddaughter and her friends!

Point Four
As we noted two weeks ago, commuters who continue to drive their own cars will enjoy less congestion after rail is built than if we did nothing at all. That’s a close paraphrase of Mr. Slater’s admission before the City Council in July 2010 when he conceded that rail will have the positive benefit of slowing congestion’s inevitable growth.

The project believes island-wide congestion as measured in vehicle hours of delay will be reduced by 18 percent in 2030 with rail in operation.  The anti-rail radio spot is flat-our wrong.

Bottom Line
We’re not finding fault with Civil Beat’s analysis of the spot. It did a good job as far as it went. But there’s so much left unsaid in most media coverage of the rail debate, including this Fact Check, that Yes2Rail has had no trouble feasting on what's been left out over the past four years.

The Cayetano campaign's recent radio spot is more of the same – easy pickings actually.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Checking Out More Yes2Rail Posts in the Rear-View Mirror: Some People (Who Should Know Better) Still Express Enthusiasm for At-Grade Rail, so Let’s Review another Rail-Related Big Issue – COLLISIONS

 Honolulu could expect crashes like this if rail were built at ground level.
If you’ve read it here once, you’ve seen it dozens of times: Only grade-separated transit can provide fast, frequent, reliable and safe travel through the city – each time you ride.

Elevated rail will be faster that any surface-based transportation system, no matter what anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater says. Rail will be more frequent – arriving every 3 minutes during rush hour – and it’ll be more reliable by never ever being involved in crashes with other vehicles at intersections. The are no intersections when the line is elevated above traffic.

And that’s where we’re landing today – smack dab on the Safety issue. It’s no surprise people who oppose Honolulu rail avoid talking about the safety issue at all costs. They just don’t have an answer for it.

We’ve tried calling them out on the safety issue, and we banged away pretty hard in 2010 around the time Governor Linda Lingle held her “public hearing” on rail in the State Capitol. It was a staged event to highlight her opposition to rail and support for an at-grade rail version supported by some in Honolulu’s architect community.

Our headline on January 15 declared At-Grade’s Drawbacks Can’t Be Airbrushed Away. The post’s eight bullet points detailed the obvious drawbacks of running light-rail trains on Hotel Street through Honolulu’s downtown section, including super-crowded Chinatown. It’s impossible for anyone except the most ardent at-grade supporters to imagine such a scheme. Look at the photographs in that post and come to your own conclusion.

Two days later our post was headlined 3 ‘Crosswalk Pedestrian’ Deaths Already in 2010; AIA Still Pushes for At-Grade Train in Chinatown.

The January 19, 2010 hearing captured Yes2Rail’s attention under the headline AIA Capitol Hearing Skirts At-Grade Safety Issue; Chapter’s Vision Won’t Do What Honolulu Needs.  Safety had become the biggest argument against at-grade rail, so we kept at it then and later:
January 20: Honolulu Has US’s 2nd Worst Traffic Bottleneck, Yet the AIA Still Wants To Build At-Grade Trolley
January 21: National Transit Leader Calls Honolulu Rail Plan ‘Gold Standard’ of Transit, Says Elevated Rail Is Safer, More Reliable and More Attractive To Ride
January 24: Editorial: Elevated Rail Best Deal for Taxpayers; Also Commuters, Drivers and Property Owners
January 29: 3 More At-Grade Rail Myths Debunked, Plus AIA Internal Poll Shows Low At-Grade Rail Support

The January 29 post deserves some extra attention because it reported on details of the AIA chapter’s internal poll among its members on the rail issue. We wrote:

“The results are remarkable in light of the chapter’s impassioned advocacy of at-grade rail. Using the figures in the poll summary reveals only 5.3% of the chapter’s membership responded in favor of at-grade rail. Larger percentages favored elevated rail (6.3%) and below-grade rail (8.4%).

“Another way to parse these numbers is that nearly three times as many respondents favored grade-separated rail (96) compared to at-grade (35). So how can the AIA Rail Task Force members go before the community with a straight face and say at-grade rail is such a favorite among local architects?”

As we noted in that post, only 24.3% of the respondents supported at-grade rail, 38.2% said rail should be built below ground, 28.5% said elevated was best and the rest didn’t care or failed to give a response. We summarized: “75.7% of the respondents chose not to select at-grade rail – a remarkable outcome in light of the chapter’s campaign in favor of that option.”

Yes2Rail’s post on April 2, 2010 was headlined Lingle Still Supports At-Grade Rail Despite Flaws; Doesn’t Fast, Frequent, Reliable & Safe Matter? As she demonstrated over the final months of her term by withholding approval of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, Governor Lingle didn’t think Honolulu’s rail project mattered at all.

Consider the Crashes
The photographs in Yes2Rail’s right-hand column don’t lie. They’re the images of what happens when at-grade rail transit is inserted into a city – any city. It’s never a good idea when trains, cars, buses, trucks and pedestrians try to occupy the same space.

Even the newest rail systems with tons of lessons learned from other rail-equipped cities around the country can run into trouble. One year ago, Norfolk, VA launched The Tide, its relatively short at-grade rail system, and recorded its first accident – before the system officially began service!

Our August 12 post was headlined Yet To Open, Norfolk’s Train Has First Car Crash. Check out also this TV station report following that accident that examined all the bells and whistles the at-grade system uses to alert motorists and pedestrians that a train is approaching. Listen to those horns and be thankful Honolulu's system will be elevated, with no need for warning sounds!

But that was just the beginning. A second collision was recorded a few days later during the “practice” sessions with the new system. WAVY-TV carried two video reports on that collision, here and here.

Sacramento’s system was the subject of our Jogging & Keeping Pace with an At-Grade Train post on September 19, 2009 that focused on the system’s relatively slow speed compared to Honolulu’s future elevated system. 

California’s capital city has had its share of crashes, too. KCRA-TV carried this breaking-news report on March 29 this year on a two-car, one-train crash near downtown Sacramento. Tragically, three died at a Sacramento Light Rail road crossing early this year.

Houston, TX? See this compilation of crashes called Metro’s Greatest Hits involving the city’s Metro Rail system that runs on city streets.

Salt Lake City, UT? Check out this report on a teenager's death and other videos depicting the TRAX system’s numerous crashes and fatalities – at least 7 deaths over a four-year period. The chart at right was included in a TV station’s report that compared the city’s operational record with other at-grade rail systems in the western region of the country.

Phoenix, AZ? Our December 2, 2009 postTrain Meets Van in Another At-Grade Rail Collision – reported on the growing number of crashes involving the city’s new 20-mile system that recorded 52 accidents in its first year of operation.

And still some prominent people in Honolulu believe at-grade rail would be a good idea for our city. Will they be asked to defend that preference in light of at-grade's poor safety record compared to elevated rail? Is preserving a view plane worth a single life, let alone many? Don't elevated rail's fast, frequent, reliable and safe attributes matter? Of course they matter. Maybe you'll have a chance to ask those prominent people in the weeks ahead if their transit preferences compare favorably with Honolulu's future elevated rail system that literally above all will be safe.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Countdown Has Begun (see above), so We’re Bringing Back a Few Yes2Rail Posts this Week To Highlight Big Honolulu Rail-Related Issues, Starting with CONGESTION, Plus: Another Sketchy Public Opinion Survey

You have to hand it to Cliff Slater. He’s managed to position rail as a future failure if traffic congestion will be worse after rail is built than it is today. What a snake oil salesman!

Of course congestion will be worse in the future than it is today! Will people stop moving here? Will families stop having babies? Will the long-extinct volcanoes that created Oahu miraculously start pumping more lava that can be paved over with new highway lanes? Would the public even tolerate more lanes?

No to all those questions, but even the media have been suckered by Mr. Slater’s pitch – giving him a free pass on his manipulative, deceptive anti-rail messaging. You’ll look in vain if you search the local media for even one tough interview that forced him to defend his talking points.

We’re going to spend the final week of Yes2Rail’s connection to the rail project by linking to earlier posts here that help put the Slater anti-public transit machine into perspective. Maybe we can create a critical mass in the doing that will give a few reporters reason to start asking those questions if not this week, then over the next three months..

Failure to Nip in the Bud
The congestion issue is where to begin.  John Temple, the former Civil Beat editor who has moved on to the Washington Post, had a chance to stand fast against the Slater sales pitch back in July 2010, not long after Civil Beat’s launch.

Mr. Temple’s July 12, 2010 piece on his interview a few days earlier with Mr. Slater has a deferential tone to it, with no evidence in the three video segments posted that day of any push-back by the seasoned journalist.

For example, here’s the revealing content of the third video segment:

“Well, first off we have to understand that we have a traffic congestion problem. We don’t have a public transportation problem, OK. We need to firmly address reducing traffic congestion in the future as one of – if not the primary – functions of any new proposals. And there are various tools that we could use. Rail is not one of them. It has not reduced traffic congestion anywhere, and we can spend 5 point 5 billion dollars a lot more wisely than merely on the rail line (emphasis added)."

That’s an extraordinary quote that went unchallenged at the time by Mr. Temple and has skated by unchallenged, as far as we can tell, by all other journalists in Honolulu. Only rail supporters have managed to say, “Hold on, Cliff. You’re asking rail to do something no transportation project can do – put a lid on congestion’s growth over the next two decades to keep it at today’s level. Rail can’t do it, and neither can buses or your high-occupancy toll roads!”

That would have been a reasonable response from Mr. Temple, but there was no pushback on that statement or the others Mr. Slater floated past Civil Beat’s editor:
“Why pay more when we can get the same service for less?”
Pushback Missed: Says who? What evidence did Mr. Slater have to suggest “the same service” could be achieved for less money? How could any alternative that operates in shared road space – contending with cross traffic at intersections, the daily traffic build-up, the whole lot of it – provide the same level of service as grade-separated rail transit? Mr. Slater wasn’t pressed to defend that statement.
• “It doesn’t take too much of a businessman to say this is a waste of money.”
Pushback Missed: Was Mr. Slater saying rail is a total waste of money? Did he know what rail’s goals are? How would whatever alternative he alluded to be a better expenditure?
• “These folks on the Ewa plane (sic) need some traffic relief. Nothing that’s being proposed is going to give them that.”
Pushback Missed: Would Mr. Slater have conceded that people who ride the train will get total traffic relief? That being the obvious truth of the matter, it appears obvious that what he wants is absolute traffic reductions for the driving public. Is that it?
• “My sense of it is that people are becoming a lot more aware of the disconnect between the amount of money that is going to go into this thing and the supposed benefits we’re going to get from it.”
Pushback Missed: The city is clear about rail’s benefits. What Mr. Slater seems to be doing is rewriting the benefits to include a presumed reduction in traffic. The city doesn’t claim congestion reduction as a future benefit – just a reduction in congestion’s rate of growth. What the city does say is that rail will be a congestion-free, non-highway option to commute that doesn’t now exist.
• “We need to address the traffic congestion problem, not the public transportation problem. We need to use tools to address congestion. Rail is not one of them.”
Pushback Missed: So if it’s traffic congestion Mr. Slater wants to reduce, why hasn’t he gathered up a coalition of like-minded traffic haters and proposed a congestion-reducing transportation option to the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization, the City Council, the State Legislature? He’s obviously trying to kill rail because it won’t accomplish his goals and won’t be satisfied unless congestion actually is reduced. But that’s not possible with a growing population, so Mr. Temple's missed pushback is so obvious that it’s hard to imagine how he could have.

Other Possibilities
Mr. Temple didn’t push back in any way, based on the reporting of this interview, which had this somewhat bizarre final sentence in Mr. Temple's article: “The question in the end will be whether we’ll thank him for standing firm” – which seems to presume a failed rail project --  “or blame him for preventing a giant new addition that could transform the look and feel of a significant part of Honolulu" – again, a presumption that rail won’t be built.

What about blaming him for preventing rail’s construction two decades ago? What about blaming him for the delaying tactics, including a federal lawsuit to kill rail, that have added to this current project’s costs?  What about asking him to explain his thesis that traffic congestion can be reduced if only we were to divert the money going into rail and put it somewhere else?

This Blog’s Pushback
Yes2Rail took immediate notice of this interview and began posting about it the very first day it appeared at Civil Beat. Our July 12 post was headlined Cliff Slater’s ‘Ace Card’ Turns Out To Be a Joker; the flaw in his major talking point seemed so obvious that we could barely take him seriously:

“Without the rail alternative in (Chicago, Paris, New York and San Francisco) and other cities around the world, congestion would be even worse than it is today, and there would be no commuting alternative to sitting in traffic congestion.”

A Closer Look at Cliff Slater’s ‘Whole Argument’ the next day zeroed in on the centerpiece of Mr. Slater’s audience pitch then and now. Here’s what he told Civil Beat’s John Temple:

In talking to groups about rail, I tell them that there’s really two things you need to know about it. Number one, it’s gonna cost five and one-half billion dollars before cost overruns, and the second thing is that traffic congestion with rail in the future will be worse than it is today. And then I ask them if they have any questions, and that kinda sums up the whole argument.”

Really? The whole argument? It seemed preposterous then and still does that such a shallow pitch could actually succeed, yet we’ve seen it happen before audiences pre-disposed to oppose the rail project, like many members in a Rotary Club of Honolulu audience last year. We wrote:

Mr. Slater apparently believes diverting all $5.5 billion intended for Honolulu rail will decrease congestion. That’s the only possible inference from his position. Yet in holding fast to that assertion, Mr. Slater stands apart from virtually all professional assessmenets of Oahu’s transportation future conducted by an army of transit and traffic experts.

“Yet that is what Mr. Slater apparently believes – that despite more than a 20-percent increase in Oahu’s population, his plan can reduce highway congestion and hours of delay by 2030. Objective assessments suggest he’s flat wrong, and we will continue to publicize his 'whole argument' to expose its obvious weakness.”

And that’s what we did in the coming weeks. On July 16, our headline was True Confessions: Rail Opponent Concedes Transit Project Will Reduce Future Traffic Congestion. That post included quotes by both Mr. Slater and the City’s Director of Transportation Services Wayne Yoshioka, who responded at a City Council meeting to Mr. Slater’s main talking point:

“No kidding, in the future, traffic congestion will be greater than it is today. I don’t think that’s any earth-shattering news. I think what the difference is, is that without the rail in the future, traffic congestion will be much worse than with the rail, and I think that’s the whole point of the discussion would be. It’s not appropriate to compare what the future is with rai and what it is now, but it is to compare what the future would be with or without rail. That’s the comparison that should be asked, and that’s not what Cliff Slater was just talking about.”

Yes2Rail kept pushing even as Honolulu’s media were backing away from examining the Obfuscator in Chief’s dubious tactics:
• October 8: Question #5: ‘Mr. Slater, You Know the Truth, so Why Did You Ply Your Team with Falsehoods?’ The “team” is composed of the Mr. Slater and his three recruits to the anti-rail camp – Ben Cayetano, Randy Roth and Walter Heen. They’re the lead plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit that will be heard in court later this month, and they’ve both been quoted using exactly the same Slater talking points.

800 and Counting
Cliff Slater has been mentioned here at Yes2Rail (a total of 801 posts counting today's) more than anyone else for good reason: He’s more responsible than anyone else for public transportation’s rough going since at least 1990 and possibly earlier. It happened to the Fasi Administration’s project 20 years ago, and it’s happening again today.

As we’ve shown over the years, Mr. Slater relies on misinformation and twisted logic in his campaign against rail, and he relies on something else, too – government’s inability and or unwillingness to mount a serious response to his efforts.

We’ll be watching closely beyond next Monday, our last day as a consultant on rail, to see if anyone steps up to challenge Mr. Slater’s rhetoric and those he has propelled to prominence in the anti-rail fight. Mr. Slater’s own words have supplied the ammunition.

Civil Beat’s Latest Poll
We’ll know Saturday whether the news media’s opinion surveys were accurate or wildly off the mark. UH professor Neal Milner last week agreed with our criticism of surveys that ignore the opinions of citizens who are not likely voters both the Civil Beat and the Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now poll did that but are more likely than voters to rely on public transit. 

Nevertheless, Dr. Milner said the voter-only surveys do help predict the results of candidate races. But we have to wonder about Civil Beat’s latest poll that concludes the anti-rail mayoral candidate could avoid a runoff in Saturday's vote. Here’s the significant paragraph about the poll's methodology:

“Civil Beat's survey sample has 80 percent age 50 or older (emphasis added). Cayetano does worst among younger voters, with 46 percent of those in their 30s and 33 percent of those between 18 and 29 years old. If more young voters turn out than have historically, it would spell trouble for him. The recent Hawaii Poll sponsored by Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser had only 48 percent of voters aged 55 or older, and found Cayetano's overall support at 44 percent.”

That 80-percent figure is enough to question the methodology and therefore the results. Maybe the pollsters know snake oil, too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Are Any Oahu Residents Still ‘Undecided’ on Rail? If You’re Not Sure What To Think about This Technology only 5 Days before the Primary, Maybe Weighing Values Like ‘Truth’ and ‘Honesty’ Will Help You Make Up Your Mind

Citizens still unsure of how to vote in Saturday’s Primary Election apparently haven’t heard enough to form an opinion and are still searching for honest answers to their questions.

If that’s you, maybe this will help:

By the end of Honolulu’s most important week since Statehood in 1959, the city’s future could be as bleak and blank as this page on the Vote Ben 2012 campaign website.

Nothing fills the white space on a page that’s devoted to “Ben’s Solutions – Real solutions to our traffic problems – solutions that will benefit everyone and that we can afford.” An excerpt of the page is shown at right.

This blank page is more than ironic; it also says something about those who promise “solutions” to Oahu’s traffic issues. Put bluntly, there is no way to “solve” traffic, and anyone who promises “real solutions” to traffic is promising the impossible. It also says they’re out of touch

Playing Straight with the Facts
Promising Real Solutions to traffic congestion has a superficial appeal to it, but consider this handful of facts:
• Traffic congestion grows as the population grows.
• Oahu’s population will continue to grow by another 150,000 to 200,000 by 2030.
• There’s no legal way to prevent migration to Hawaii or (God forbid) prevent couples from having children.
• The number of vehicles will grow as the population increases.
• There’s insufficient space on Oahu to build more highways and no apparent support among the public to do so.
• Traffic isn’t solved by adding lanes, which studies show are filled with vehicles as soon as drivers perceive an advantage to driving on them.
• This is the 21st Century, and Oahu can’t achieve pre-Statehood traffic levels again.
• Elevated Honolulu rail will provide congestion-free travel for everyone who rides it and reduce traffic's growth rate.

It’s surprising to see the “solution” word being used at this late date. Twenty years ago, a group called Honolulu Taxpayers for Traffic Solutions was formed to support Mayor Fasi’s elevated rail plan but was ridiculed on this very same point – for suggesting traffic can be solved.

The premise it can be solved is the foundation of anti-railer-in-chief Cliff Slater’s entire movement, which has managed to sweep up the anti-rail mayoral candidate and others who’ve bought his “solutions” line.

Here’s Mr. Slater’s mission statement – plainly displayed on his website:

“Our mission: Offering cost effective ways to reduce traffic congestion on Oahu. The problem with the solutions offered by elected officials is that they are all based on motorists reducing their use of the automobile and using public transportation instead. This is wishful thinking. Elected officials cannot point to any city that has ‘invested’ in any form of public transportation, heavy rail, light rail or bus/rapid transit and increased the use of public transportation as a whole even though billions of dollar (sic) have been spent trying. Accordingly our mission is to work to find what can be implemented to reduce congestion that has worked elsewhere.”

What an amazing page this is in revealing both Mr. Slater's anti-government philosophy (public transit is bad, cars are good) and in inventing the suggestion that public transit is a failure for not increasing its share of daily transportation trips.

It’s a bogus notion, since the major thrust of infrastructure development in the latter half of the 20th Century was to support expanded use of the private automobile.  Hundreds of billions (trillions?) were spent toward that end, and what it gave America was infamous urban sprawl.

Not to be missed is Mr. Slater’s inclusion of “bus/rapid transit” among his list of failed public transportation initiatives. But that was before an anti-rail mayoral candidate began promoting BRT as a “solution” to traffic congestion, so it’s convenient for him to support BRT now even though he’s on record as calling BRT a failure.

Understandable Blankness
It’s not surprising after all that the candidate’s “Real Solutions” page has nothing on it, because a lot of nothing backs up Mr. Slater’s credentials to be Mr. Cayetano’s brain trust on transportation.

BenSnookered.com looked into those credentials and came up with nothing beyond self promotion:

“There is no question that Cliff Slater is a successful businessman, and although not formally educated, an extremely intelligent person.  However, there is also ample evidence that he has no special expertise in traffic or transportation other that that which he has bestowed upon himself and that he has seriously misrepresented himself.”

Honesty and truthfulness are the overlooked key issues in the rail debate. You can find them in abundance at the rail project's website. The contrast with the “Real Solutions” page couldn’t be greater.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Review: A ‘New’ Anti-Rail Group that Includes the Usual Suspects Calls Itself Pro-Environment Yet Opposes Sprawl-Fighting Rail, Plus: More Hints, Guesses, Speculation and Fear from Cliff Slater

And so ends another week of double-talk and calculated misinformation about Honolulu rail.

Yes2Rail yesterday dispatched Dennis Callan’s Civil Beat anti-rail commentary to the trash bin with a transportation professional’s refutation of each and every one of his essay’s points.

Call us crazy, but we think a transit expert easily trumps every card played by a travel expert in the anti-rail misinformation game. But Mr. Callan's error-filled piece wasn’t the craziest item among rail opponents’ activities this week.

Their Pool of Deception deepened when a group calling itself the Hawaii Environmental Coalition announced it would fight rail, a project that will do more to preserve the environment than any amount of agricultural preservation.

Civil Beat, the online subscription news service, continues to demonstrate its value to the community in covering public affairs issues. It looked earlier this week at the new group’s membership, which includes the usual cast of rail-opposing characters – among them Cliff Slater, Randy Roth, Sam Slom, Scott Foster, Tom Coffman, John Brizdle and the cofounders of Stop Rail Now – Dennis Callan and Michael Uechi, who failed to stop rail in the 2008 elections.

Civil Beat observed: “The group could have been called ‘Rail Opponents Coalition’ or ‘Cayetano Supporters Coalition.’ But those don’t have the same ring as ‘Hawaii Environmental Coalition’ when it comes to an endorsement.”

We liked the pro-rail comments below Civil Beat’s article on the group so much that we’re quoting some of them today:

Long-time rail supporter Keith Rollman: It is deeply suspicious that this "environmental" group professes to be fighting sprawl by trying to kill the very project that is designed to focus future growth back into the urban corridor. The Sierra Club, nationally, supports fixed rail for this very reason. In order to curtail suburban sprawl over open space and ag land you need an incentive to re-develop existing high density urban areas. Rail does that, but trying to build more highways so you can add more cars in order to further expand low density suburban development is exactly what is causing the problem. The anti-rail group supports sprawl, oil, cars and highways, and cynically trying to pass themselves off as anti-sprawl environmentalists is insulting to anyone with a functioning brain.

Roy Kamisato, who frequently adds comments below Yes2Rail’s posts: This group could have also been named "Citizens for Urban Sprawl". "Citizens for more Freeways", "Citizens for more Traffic Congestion”, "Citizens promoting traffic alternatives which make Traffic Congestion worse'' or Citizens coalition for short term thinkers"…. There is of course no way to prevent urban sprawl without sticking to the City's General plan of placing high density developments in the West corridor. Building rail is a requirement for that to happen. There is no way to prevent urban sprawl without providing an efficient means of transportation in that corridor. Building rail does not prevent politicians from allowing further urban sprawl, but not building rail guarantees urban sprawl. (Bus Rapid Transit) is a requirement of urban sprawl. BRT's flexibility allows for development all over the place. This is the frustrating up-is-down argument that is coming from the anti-rail camp. The beauty of rail is that it is a (fixed) route and will be a magnet for development around it.

Matt Lee: For all the accusations about pro-rail groups using tricks, I don't see these anti-rail folks any better, if not worse. Why? Because if you can go to great lengths to accuse another party of mud slinging, then you engage (in) it yourself, actions speak louder than words. Basically, these folks are okay with mud slinging so long as they be the ones slinging the mud, not receiving it. (It’d) be great if the (pro-rail) side anted up and created some hocus pocus "environmentally this and that" group.

Seeing a Difference
What strikes us as a consistent difference between the pro-rail and anti-rail camps is that the former uses facts, documentation and professionalism to support its predictions that rail will have long-lasting and profound positive effects on Oahu. The latter use deception, misinformation and speculation to fight rail.

We highlighted this factor in our June 28th post, which we said at the time “may be the most important of the 772 posted here in the past four years because it cuts to the heart of the anti-rail campaign’s prominent rhetoric and exposes it for its manipulative qualities.”

We’ve added another 27 posts since then, and post #799 today uses an example from today’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser of the opponents’ reliance of scare tactics.

The story (subscription required to read online) is headlined Rail cost outlook creeps up and includes comments by city officials who say “they intend to ensure the Honolulu rail project is completed on budget.” The newspaper then cites its recent opinion survey on rail to suggest the public doesn’t agree:

“…84 percent of Oahu voters strongly or somewhat agree that the rail project ‘will end up costing a lot more than is currently estimated.’” Disregard the inadequacy of that description; to be accurate, it should have read “84 percent of very likely Oahu voters who were polled” think the project will overrun its budget.

But beyond that point, why do so many believe this? It’s because people like anti-railer-in-Chief Cliff Slater have been saying so for years without many challenges based on his hunches and speculation.

Says the paper: “Longtime rail opponent Cliff Slater said he expects the real cost overruns will come later, after the city has erected several miles of track. Slater said he believes rail contracts were awarded for artificially low amounts because contractors plan to submit change orders later to demand more money.”

We added the emphasis to highlight that these are simply Mr. Slater’s expectations and beliefs – his hunches that are driven by his decades-long opposition to public transit projects based on his preference for ABC transportation – Always by Car.

If the media had viewed Mr. Slater with more skepticism and less respect over the years, delving into his beliefs and talking points to uncover the misrepresentations at the heart of his philosophy, maybe the public would believe something entirely different about rail.

But Rolodex journalism – the media’s reliance on the same sources time and again – has catapulted Mr. Slater into near-daily prominence in local rail coverage and, because of that coverage, bestowed an aura of authority on his pronouncements.

That aura is undeserved. If you doubt that, please do spend some time with the posts beneath the Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) heading at our “aggregation site.”

And please also read Yes2Rail’s June 28th post, then fast forward to yesterday’s smack-down of Dennis Callan’s anti-rail screed by a certified transit expert. There’s enough there and elsewhere among rail-supporting groups to convince most people that the rail opponents are pushing an agenda that has nothing to do with rail’s four principal goals while disregarding what achieving the goals will mean for future generations of Oahu residents.

Here are those goals again, as originally described here in early 2011; they’re easily found in Chapter One of the project’s FEIS:

• Improve corridor mobility – Congestion has increased steadily through the decades and will continue to worsen in the decades ahead. The FEIS states: “Given current and increasing levels of congestion, an alternative method of travel is needed within the study corridor independent of current and projected highway congestion.” In other words, Honolulu rail will provide congestion-free travel through the urban corridor and thereby restore true mobility – the ability to know both your departure and arrival times for trips across town.

• Improve corridor travel reliability – Car and bus travel are susceptible to delays that can occur without warning. “This lack of predictability is inefficient and results in lost productivity or free time,” the FEIS states. “A need exists to provide more reliable transit services.” Honolulu rail will operate on a time table; train travel from one end of the line to the other will take 42 minutes day in and day out.

• Improve access to planned development to support City policy to develop a second urban center – Again from the FEIS: “Accessibility to the overall `Ewa Development Plan area is currently severely impaired by the congested roadway network, which will only get worse in the future.” Without improved accessibility to support Ewa’s growth, the area is less likely to develop as outlined in the City’s General Plan for decades.

• Improve transportation equity – Proponents of elevated highways make no allowance for this goal in their schemes to build high-occupancy toll (HOT) roads as an option to rail. They ignore transportation equity, which the FEIS defines as “the fair distribution of resources so that no group carries an unfair burden of the negative environmental, social, or economic impacts or receives an unfair share of benefits.” HOT lanes would serve only those who can afford to pay the toll, an option that obviously ignores the equity issue. Honolulu rail will provide fast, frequent, reliable and safe travel to all groups of citizens, regardless of their income and age.

That January 3 post concluded: “Anti-railers surely will raise objections to Honolulu rail even at this late date – as if the project can be reset and begin anew. There’s absolutely no reason to do that, since each and every objection they raise already has been thoroughly addressed. You can look it up, and a good place to start is the FEIS.”

In retrospect, that reads pretty funny, since the opponents haven’t just tried to “reset and begin anew,” they’re trying with all their might to kill this project.

And so the question today is, which side in the rail dispute will the public believe – the fact-based supporters or the fear-based opponents?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Latest Anti-Rail Misinformation Piece Gets a Smack-Down Response from Someone Who Knows More about Honolulu Rail Transit than All of Its Critics Combined!

Stop Rail Now co-founder Dennis Callan, a self-described world traveler who thinks the dozens of stamps in his passport make him an expert on rail transit, has yet another misleading, error-filled essay in Civil Beat today.

Yes2Rail doesn’t know whether the Honolulu rail project will attempt to correct Mr. Callan’s mistakes and blatant disregard of the facts, but we’re not waiting. We’ve secured a point-by-point deconstruction of Mr. Callan’s piece written by a professional transportation planner who’s had years of experience with Honolulu rail.

Don’t worry about who the author is as you read his refutation of Mr. Callan’s commentary, which is headlined There are Many Reasons To Reject Rail. Just reading his fact-based analysis should convince you he knows his stuff. Mr. Callan’s paragraphs are shown below in purple, followed by our expert’s commentary.

There has been a truck-load of ink spilled on this topic but never, ever, have ALL the arguments been assembled in one place. One Place. There has not bee a place or time when all the arguments have been collected in one composition. This critical issue has so many dimensions to consider that we need a summary at this tie to properly state the case. The tragedy is that opponents say "too noisy, ugly, expensive" or "too..." but singling out one aspect, like financing or corruption, is not enough. It narrows and cheapens the argument.
TRAFFIC & ALTERNATIVES: Rail will not solve our traffic problems. City and FTA admit that congestion will be worse with rail than now. Cheaper, more effective alternatives could be implemented quickly, benefitting all, but were never properly studied by city.
Contrary to this comment, the other options were studied and did not result in measurable improvement compared to rail benefits. Congestion will be worse, that is true, but much better than if we don’t build rail.  No other “solutions” Callan points to can claim that.  He simply chooses to ignore the results because they don’t agree with his views.
More express buses are needed now: one express lane could provide four times the passenger capacity than rail, at higher speed, with seated passengers. Future cars will be computer-guided, self-driving, making better use of lanes, safely fitting more vehicles into existing roads. Other solutions include telecommuting, ridesharing, added lanes, modified work & school hours.  
Callan is not viewing the reality of the conditions in Honolulu. In the extreme, buses can carry a lot of people. That is true. But they do so only when they can travel unfettered by other traffic. In Honolulu, that condition does not exist even if you build a new facility. Eventually, they MUST return to the surface streets and the congestion they carry. That negates whatever benefit might have been achieved from other improvements. Callan simplistically claims capacity for buses as ridership. Providing capacity is not the same as attracting ridership. The rail project forecasts ridership, not capacity. That's all evaluated in the rail project and clearly explained. Elevated rail has none of those problems.
ENVIRONMENT & LAND USE: 20-mile, elevated, massive concrete slab would be an eyesore. The train would have lower energy-efficiency than future cars and current buses. Archaeological and historic sites will be disturbed and existing neighborhoods disrupted. 
The elevated rail system will have some visual effect on parts of the city. Those locations are identified in the EIS and addressed in detail.  Most of the project will not have any notable effect on the Island.  The train, contrary to Callan’s repeated comments, is more efficient that cars and buses, current or otherwise.  Though I guess we should reflect on the fact that he now proposes we wait for future cars to solve the problem.  He loves to claim benefits for telecommuting and carpooling that are, in reality, miniscule.  While they might still be a good idea, they have not worked anywhere else at reducing congestion.  Why would they work here?  The historic sites that are along the project are being addressed in accordance with the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act.  A lot of effort has gone into ensuring that no critical site is affected and not properly mitigated from that effect.  The project does not knowingly disturb neighborhoods or sensitive sites.  Callan is just making that up.
Transit Oriented Development is unlikely, e.g. Portland, still waiting for development 25 years later. Resulting low-density Leeward sprawl encouraged by rail will further increase congestion and destroy farmlands. Feds have stated “Waipahu, Pearl City, and Salt Lake communities may not be very adaptable to redevelopment.” A better planning option is to increase city-center population. 
“TOD is unlikely.”  This statement just makes Callan look foolish. First of all, we already have TOD in parts of the city.  Callan is ignorant of the experience in other cities yet passes himself off as somebody who has expertise in such matters. Portland has entire neighborhoods built around the concept.  And, while TOD does not happen just because you want it to, it is a reality in many cities around the country and the world and an effective tool to address transportation issues.
RAIL COSTS: This is the most expensive per-capita rail project in US history. Construction was $2.7 billion in 2006, now $5.3 billion and climbing. Historically rail has had average overrun +40 percent from initial estimates. Operation and maintenance during the next 20 years will total over $6 billion. Combined this will cost each family of four $48,000, which we don’t have.
So, the argument here is that “because it costs money, we should not do something…”  This is a costly project.  With few exceptions, every project in Honolulu is likely to be more expensive than a similar project elsewhere in the country.  But there is no way around that if anything effective is to be done about the issue.  Callan would rather condemn the citizens of a great city to the vagaries of his personal ideology because there is a financial cost. 
OTHER COSTS: We cannot afford it, especially considering needed improvements for sewers, $5 billion; water, $5 billion; and roads, $2 billion. Subsidy for operation & maintenance of rail and bus in 2023 estimated at $285 million/year. 
This is a red herring.  The source of funds for other projects cannot by law come from the funding for the rail project. It has to be raised independently or it won’t happen.  In other words, just because the rail does not go forward does not mean something else will. This is a good example of how Callan sees the people of Oahu.  He thinks they are simple and that he can sell them on a lie to further his personal agenda.
RIDERSHIP: Transit use would only increase from current 6 percent to 8 percent, benefitting just 2 percent while using half our transportation budget. Inflated claims of 116,000 daily require a 100 percent increase in transit riders, which has never happened anywhere.
Again, this is a gross display of ignorance on Callan’s part.  By now, he should certainly know better given the chances he’s had to inform himself about the rail project.  But then, why let the facts get in the way of an opinion?  The ridership forecast is actually conservative.  It could go to well over 130,000.  The project purposely, with the FTA’s oversight, kept the forecast conservative.  Rail will represent only about a third of the transit system ridership (including TheBus).  Right now, TheBus carries about 270,000 riders a day.  In 2030, the number can be expected to be substantially higher.  The rail forecast of 116,000 would be about 40% of today’s ridership and a lesser proportion of future ridership.  How does Callan arrive at a 100% increase in ridership?  Then he says “it has never happened before” clearly without having a clue about the truth of his statement.  His math is either in need of serious remedial work or he is, once again, trying to foist a lie upon the citizens of the City to further his own views and prevent them from exercising their right to make an informed opinion.
Existing residential pattern is low density, not suited for rail. Very few (perhaps 2 percent) will walk to rail; time-consuming bus-to-rail transfers always discourage ridership; parking available at only 3 of 21 stations; city claims 60 percent will transfer by bus, which is a four times higher than national average. The first rail segment starts in farmland with full route not open for 20 or 30 years. Riders would be uncomfortable with 80% standing, some for 41 minutes. Average train speed is only 27 mph, stopping every mile.
The density in the rail corridor is among the highest in the country.  It is not a “low density pattern” and is all within a very narrow linear space which is exactly why rail lends itself very nicely to this location.  The farmland Callan refers to is planned for high density residential.  The rail project does not judge the good or bad of that decision by the City and County, but it provides a vehicle for moving those people around that Callan certainly does not have a solution for.  Callan makes up all these weird statistics to support his position and never provides any documentation of his sources.  His interpretation of national data is often bizarre and either misinformed or malicious to further his objectives.  It is difficult to believe any of his statistics because they are mostly made up.  New parking facilities will be available at five locations, not three.  Existing parking is available at a number of station locations already and at most, there is no need for parking because they are at the destination end of most trips.  OK, I agree it will take 41 minutes from Kapolei to Ala Moana by rail.  Do that in a car at rush hour!
JOBS: $500 million foreign payments to build the trains will export employment. Rail technology requires importing specialized workers. Bus transit alternatives would create local jobs. Traffic relief, not job-creation, should be main justification.
I will give Callan credit for being persistent. This thing about rail creating foreign jobs is another red herring. Buying buses will also create foreign jobs. So what?! The issue is not foreign jobs, but whether the project create jobs here. And, as we've seen, it is already doing that. Comparing jobs for a bus alternative to jobs for the rail project is like saying that we have a choice between marlin fishing and buying a can of tuna. Buses will offer little or no relief. Let's get past this. It's clearly discussed in the EIS. Callan just wants to perpetuate misinformation ahead of the vote for Mayor to gain his selfish ends. If we want traffic relief, let's built the rail project. Nothing else can do as well.
OPERATION: Train has no drivers, no police, and security is not in budget. Honor system for fare collection is unreliable. Trains are old-fashioned, obsolete technology, with rigid alignment that cannot be modified for changing conditions.
This is a flat out lie.  All these features are part of the plan.  They have always been a priority item.  Callan just does not want anybody to know that.  Also, for all the travel Callan does, you’d think he would know how trains have changed over the past two decades.  These ain’t your father’s choo-choos.
POLITICS: The public has been subject to years of misleading ads by government, paid with tax money. Our city administration is irresponsible to proceed now, issuing $300 million in contracts in the face of lawsuits and the upcoming election, without guarantee of Federal funds. If rail is not approved, new construction will have to be torn down (“cheaper” city claims).
Arrogant politicians have been intolerant of criticism, and unwilling to listen to alternate opinions. Biased studies were conducted by the same city-contracted planner, Parsons, who recommended Bus Rapid Transit in 2003 and dismissed rail. Major polls show public now opposed to rail. The 2008 election was rigged by big $$ on misleading ads, and promises of reduced congestion and lower price. Rail benefits special interests: bankers, developers, politicians, unions and planners with ties to rail. We need real solutions.
The misleading information is coming from the anti-rail crowd.  They compound it with feigned paranoia to further excite their audiences.  They have nothing to offer that improves upon the rail project.  Their ideas were, despite their continual whining about dismissing “alternate opinions”, studied in detail during the Alternatives Analysis and discussed in the EIS.  They expected a particular outcome and did not get it, so they make up stories to mislead people about what will work.  It’s a childish position to take and, hopefully, people will not fall for it.  Callan has nothing to offer but a perpetuation of current conditions that will get substantially worse over time.  Rail gives people a choice they do not have today.  Callan does not want to citizens of Honolulu to have that choice.
About the author: Dennis Callan co-founded Stop Rail Now in 2008. He has learned about mass transit during the past 30 years leading tours to Europe and elsewhere, riding metro rail in 62 different cities, nearly all of which are larger and more densely populated than Honolulu. He has been opposing the Honolulu rail for 35 years and is currently active in the Cayetano mayoral campaign. 
Sorry. Traveling around the world as a tourist is not a substitute for studying and understanding the principles that shape transportation. It's OK to disagree with a project or a position, but it's not OK to tell stories that take away from the people's right to make an informed decision.

There you have it – a thorough and credible dismantling of the anti-rail set’s best list of reasons to oppose Honolulu’s elevated rail project. If they didn't think so highly of this commentary, they wouldn't have placed it 8 days before the Primary Election.

Please digest our friend's response and take it to the bank. As they say in Vegas, "It's money."

This post has been included in Yes2Rail's "aggregation site" under the Mr. Cliff Slater (and Friends) heading.