Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Former Governor’s Blast Against Rail Avoids the Issues, Including Rail’s Ability to Avoid Traffic

We like former Governor Ben Cayetano and have agreed with him on many occasions, but his commentary in today’s Honolulu Advertiser is more of the same politics-based argument on rail that he says he condemns.

Maybe that’s the litmus test that should be applied to arguments about Honolulu’s rail system. If the statements seem based mostly on politics, old him-vs-him grudges and speculation, be wary.

Unfortunately, that appears to be the substance of Governor Cayetano’s arguments today. The 651-word column alleges conflicts of interest, hypocrisy and unnecessary expenditures to “sell” the rail system. It mentions his contact with university-based rail critics and in the end summarizes one man's opinion without offering a viable alternative.

As we should have mentioned yesterday but didn’t in this blog’s first post, I have no political motive in writing it. (It still feels weird to use the first person in this blog, unlike my other ones; click “View my complete profile” at the bottom of the left column to see them.) I simply want to see this project built to benefit our island in ways that seem obvious to many many people and residents who also have studied the issue.

Creating an Alternative

Without grade-separated transit, there is no alternative to traffic jams. Building more highways is not a solution; experience shows that new lanes simply fill up as soon as they’re opened unless – and here’s the kicker – tolls are raised so high that only the well-to-do can afford to drive on those lanes.

The rail line will give residents a choice – ride the system and avoid traffic or don’t. Without rail, sitting in traffic will be a fact of life. With it, the quality of riders’ lives will be enhanced. It will be a choice.

About those PR Efforts

Governor Cayetano decried “high-powered public relations efforts” and ends his column: “If the project is going to be explained to us objectively, rather than simply sold to us, then such expenditures should not be necessary.”

The anti-rail effort is doing everything it can to obfuscate the issues with its own brand of PR, so it’s understandable why communications is a component of the rail project. Federal regulations even require it.

But let’s stick with the main issues – traffic and traffic avoidance. For more information, go to the project’s website and read up on all the issues, including the planned expenditures that will improve driving conditions on our roads and highways even as the rail project is being built. This is not an either-or proposition.

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