We’ve long found Mr. Slater’s relationship with this newspaper remarkable. Throughout the ‘90s and this decade, readers have been treated to his recurring columns with the consistent theme on why Honolulu shouldn’t build a fixed guideway transit system. We often took issue with Slater, as in our response to one of his columns in early 2004.
We weren’t alone in wondering in letters to the editor why the paper gave this particular private citizen so much space, but today’s HOT SEAT column produces a different reaction. You can’t read through it without concluding that Slater over the years has really hacked off a lot of citizens who see him as perhaps the biggest obstacle to transit progress, a point about which he undoubtedly is proud.
Take this comment from “Pualani”:
Slater is nothing if not consistent – or consistently inflexible – in his anti-transit advocacy. He consistently discounts fixed guideway transit as a viable option for commuters who desire only to travel quickly between points A and B without encountering traffic.
One Size Fits All
Slater’s argument comes down to an assertion that all citizens have multiple destinations each day – school, the dentist, the cleaners, the grocery story, etc. We all have days like that, but what he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge is that there are thousands and thousands of residents who simply want to go 20 miles to and from work without wasting an hour each way in traffic. The side trips to the grocery story can wait until the end of the day.
When he says, as he did in the HOT SEAT column, “People are not dumb; individual transportation saves time and time is money,” you have to conclude he’s never sat on the H-1 town-bound at 6:30 a.m. or ewa-bound at 5 in the afternoon.
Without the grade-separated alternative of rail, our population is trapped by traffic. Of course there will still be a need for the private automobile to make all those side trips, but that doesn’t disqualify the legitimacy of affordable grade-separated rail transit. Pualani’s right; Slater’s HOT lanes and their tolls keep the lanes open by punishing drivers to the point they can’t afford that exclusive highway.
The Last Straw
One also gets the feeling from today’s column that Mr. Slater knows the tide has turned against him and that his anti-rail arguments are threadbare. The polls certainly show that to be the case, and so does he with one of his last comments in the HOT SEAT column:
There it is – the last ditch argument of desperate debaters who sense they’re losing the argument and therefore encourage cynicism about their opponents’ motives.
We actually like Cliff Slater enough to feel a little embarrassed for him. We also think the public is smart enough to see through his arguments.